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Egypt criminalizes sexual harassment

(CNN) -- Egypt's outgoing interim president issued a decree criminalizing sexual harassment to combat the widespread abuse of women in the country, a spokesman said Friday.

President Adly Mansour issued the country's first law that explicitly uses the term "sexual harassment," a statement from his office reads. The law makes the offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds.

The decree starts with a baseline prohibition, making it illegal to accost people by "implying sexual or obscene gestures" in any manner, "including modern means of communication." Absent any aggravating factor, the crime is punishable by at least six months of detention.

If the harassment is made with "the intent of receiving sexual gratification from the victim," the minimum detention rises to one year.

And if the offender holds "a position of authority over the victim," whether social or professional, the minimum imprisonment is two years, the law reads.

A 2013 United Nations report entitled "Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women" found that 99.3% of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment.

Fathi Farid, a founder of Egypt's "I Saw Harassment" campaign against sexual violence, said the law "is a first step in the right direction, but we believe that a revision is needed to strengthen the decree."

Farid cited a lack of protection for eyewitnesses, judicial discretion in issuing punishment, and inadequate protection against gang assaults as points of weakness for the law.

Still, Farid said the law "will give women greater trust in the government and encourage victims that may have been afraid in the past to file complaints to the police against perpetrators."

He added that it will take time to assess whether the law will actually be applied by authorities.

Former Egyptian military chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is due to succeed Mansour after winning last month's presidential election. Mansour was declared the acting president after the ouster of Mohamed Morsy last July.

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