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First Arrests Under Egypt Sex Attack Law After El-Sisi Ceremony

June 9 (Bloomberg) -- Seven men were detained on charges of sexual assault in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, three days after laws were tightened to curb such attacks in Egypt.

The men were detained during street celebrations to mark President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi’s inauguration last night, according to an Interior Ministry statement that didn’t give details of the attack. A 19-year-old girl was stripped of her clothes and sexually assaulted during the event and remains in a local hospital, Abdel Aziz Khedr, head of West Cairo Investigations Unit, said by phone.

Sexual attacks in the Arab world’s most populous nation increased in the three years following the uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak, amid a general deterioration in security.

Egypt on June 5 amended laws to define sexual harassment for the first time. Offenders can now be sentenced to jail terms of six months to five years depending on the severity of the attack and a fine of up to 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($6,990). Previously, the maximum sentence was two years under “indecent assault” legislation.

“Police have never moved on an investigation that quickly,” Dalia Abdel-Hamid, a researcher at the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said. “A security solution will never be enough as long as there’s no political will to curb the sexual violence against women.”

She called for a nationwide strategy to combat violence against women.

A local organization that campaigns against sex attacks, called “I Saw Harassment,” said there were several other sexual assaults in Tahrir Square during the inauguration yesterday. The claim couldn’t be independently verified.

To contact the reporter on this story: Salma El Wardany in Cairo at selwardany@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net Caroline Alexander, Mark Williams

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