An Egyptian lawyer has prompted outrage for saying harassing and raping girls who wear revealing clothing such as ripped jeans is a “national duty”.
Nabih al-Wahsh, a prominent conservative, made the controversial comments during a TV panel show discussion debating a draft law on prostitution.
“Are you happy when you see a girl walking down the street with half of her behind showing?” the lawyer said on Al-Assema earlier this month.
He added: “I say that when a girl walks about like that, it is a patriotic duty to sexually harass her and a national duty to rape her.”
Mr al-Wahsh’s remarks have prompted fury across the country and Egypt’s National Council for Women announced it plans to file a complaint against the TV channel. It also issued a plea for media outlets to refrain from providing a platform for individuals who make incendiary comments that incite violence against women.
The National Council also said it would be filing a complaint against Mr al-Wahsh himself and rebuked his assertion.
“All the members of the council denounce and decry this statement that explicitly promotes rape and sexual harassment,” it said in a statement.
Maya Morsi, head of the council, argued his remarks constitute an actual violation of the Egyptian constitution that makes explicit efforts to safeguard women’s rights.
The comments come after the Egyptian capital of Cairo was last month branded the “most dangerous” megacity for women in the first international poll which looked at how women fare in cities with over ten million people. Women’s rights campaigners in the city say this stems from deeply entrenched centuries-old traditions of discrimination there and women having limited access to good healthcare, education, and finance.
Prominent Egyptian journalist, Shahira Amin, said something as mundane and everyday as taking a stroll down the street in the capital could leave a woman vulnerable to harassment and abuse of all kinds.
A 2008 study found that 83 per cent of Egyptian women said they had been sexually harassed and 53 per cent of men blamed women for “bringing it on themselves”.
Mr al-Wahsh made headlines in October last year after his debate with a liberal cleric descended into chaos and chairs and shoes wound up flying around the TV studio.
The fiercely heated discussion turned ferocious after Sheikh Rashad, who is famed for his permissive interpretation of Islam, argued women should not necessarily be required to cover their hair with a headscarf.
“You’re an apostate! You’re an infidel” Mr Wahsh yelled.
The cleric responded: “You’re mentally ill. You belong in a mental hospital.”
Mr al-Wahsh then took his shoe off in an apparent preparation for a fight as whacking someone with the sole of your shoe is a serious insult in the Arabic world. Mr Rashed then rushed at him while Mr al-Wash responded by hitting with his shoe.
The spectacle culminated in the two men grappling across the debating area, smashing a glass panel and having to be pulled apart by the studio crew.
Mr al-Wahsh has previously stated his opposition to women serving as judges. He argued if women become judges they could also become muftis, a Muslim legal expert who has the power to give rulings on religious issues, and would issue fatwas – a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognised authority – while they are on their periods.
He said: “If we let a woman become a judge, why shouldn’t she become Sheik of Al-Azhar? Why shouldn’t she become the Mufti? Why don’t we all just go to Hell?! Will she issue me a fatwa while she is menstruating?!”