An Egyptian lawyer has been sentenced to three years in prison for declaring women who wear ripped jeans should be raped as a “national duty”.

Nabih al-Wahsh, a prominent conservative who has previously stoked controversy, was also fined 20,000 Egyptian pounds (£839).

The lawyer sparked outrage for making the controversial comments during a TV panel show discussion in October debating a draft law on prostitution.

“Are you happy when you see a girl walking down the street with half of her behind showing?” he said on Al-Assema. 

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 said women who wore revealing clothing were “inviting men to harass them” and said “protecting morals is more important than protecting borders”.

The lawyer’s remarks sparked fury across the country and Egypt’s National Council for Women announced it would be filing a complaint against the TV channel. It 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 said the remarks were a “flagrant call” for rape and in violation of “everything in the Egyptian constitution”. Maya Morsi, head of the council, argued his remarks constituted an actual violation of the Egyptian constitution that makes explicit efforts to safeguard women’s rights. 

The prosecutor brought charges against Mr al-Wahsh in the wake of the public uproar.

The council has now filed a complaint about the statement to the Supreme Council for Media Regulation about the broadcast which was shown on 19 October.

In October, the Egyptian capital of Cairo was 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 is the result of deeply entrenched centuries-old traditions of discrimination there and women having limited access to good healthcare, education, and finance.

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 has previously prompted controversy for branding the Holocaust “imaginary” and labelling himself a proud anti-Semite.

“If I see any Israeli, I will kill him,” he said during a separate TV panel show.

Mr al-Wahsh made headlines in October last year after his debate with a liberal cleric descended into chaos and chairs and shoes flew around the TV studio.

The fiercely heated discussion spiralled out of control 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.

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?!”

Independent

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