Source: Al-Warham Weekly
Reem Leila reports on the National Council for Women's strategy to combat sexual violence.

Last week, at a conference attended by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and Minister of Health Adel Al-Adawi, the National Council for Women (NCW) agreed a new tripartite strategy to tackle violence against women. It brought together concerned ministries in an attempt to finds credible solutions to sexual violence, stressing the urgent need to acknowledge sexual violence as a social problem and to work with both women and men to end it.

The NCW signed the new strategy with the Ministries of Interior, Social Solidarity, Youth, Education, Labour and Immigration, Justice, Religious endowments and Health. It was signed in the presence of ministers, public figures and representatives of NGOs and political parties.

Violence against women is increasingly being recognised as an issue of national concern. A variety of forms of violence against women have been identified, including physical, sexual, psychological, political and economic violence.

The new strategy stresses prevention, protection and intervention, seeks to raise people's awareness and rehabilitate both the victims of violence and its perpetrators. The council signed the strategy after reviewing a study issued in 2012 revealing the negative impact of violence on women. The Ministry of Justice has already set up training courses for those working with the issue after earlier signing a protocol with the NCW.

According to the study, overseen by the NCW, 38 per cent of violence is verbal and 29 per cent physical. Thirty three per cent of violent incidents take place within the family.

NCW Head Mervat Al-Tellawi told the conference that tackling the problem would require transparency, a scientific methodology, acknowledgment of traditions and communication between all sides.

It is up to the government, she said, to combat violence against women as part its overall strategy to promote peace across the cultural, social, political and economic landscape.

"Within weeks an executive committee will be set up, including representatives from the different ministries which signed the strategy, to follow up on the implementation of the plan," said Al-Tellawi.

Violence against women had impeded the creation of functioning institutions capable of providing security for them, said Al-Tellawi. The study, she added, had revealed major shortcomings in the role women are allocated in politics.

Existing agreements between the NCW and governmental bodies had addressed a number of legal loopholes as well as problems in law enforcement but had little impact on the ground, she said.

"Coordination between the concerned parties remains a problem, as does the information, education and media deficit. There is an acute shortage of specialists in areas such as the health service and an absence of guidelines to be applied by those tacking the issue."

"The new constitution places women on an equal footing with men in their civil, political and social rights," said Mehleb. The constitution guarantees female representation on professional councils and in top managerial positions, and protection from violence. What is needed, he added, are "real and practical solutions" to solve the problems.

The govenment and the NCW agree on a new strategy to tackle violence against women

Minister of Health Adel Awadi said medical teams were already allocated for the treatment and psychological rehabilitation of victims. Research was also underway to identify the most efficient ways of tackling the problems sexual violence engenders.

The NCW, said Al-Tellawi, has already set up a hotline for complaints. "The council also collated the information that formed the base of the government's strategy, amendments to the harassment law and the bill to protect women introduced in 2012."

In 2013 the Ministry of Interior signed a protocol with the NCW setting up a specialist unit to tackle sexual violence, employ more female officers, and provide statistics from across Egypt's governorates.

The protocol signed with the Ministry of Health will establish mobile medical units to deal with those the victims of violence.

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