According to its constitution, Egypt is a republic governed by an elected president and unicameral legislature. Domestic and international observers concluded the presidential election that took place in 2014 was administered professionally and in line with the country’s laws, while also expressing serious concerns that government limitations on association, assembly, and expression constrained broad political participation. Domestic and international observers also concluded that government authorities professionally administered the parliamentary elections that took place October through December 2015 in accordance with the country’s laws, while also expressing concern about restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression and their negative effect on the political climate surrounding the elections.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
The most significant human rights problems were excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties. Excessive use of force included unlawful killings and torture. Due process problems included the excessive use of preventative custody and pretrial detention, the use of military courts to try civilians, trials involving hundreds of defendants in which authorities did not present evidence on an individual basis, and arrests conducted without warrants or judicial orders. Civil liberties problems included societal and government restrictions on freedoms of expression and the media, as well as on the freedoms of assembly and association in statute and practice.
Other human rights problems included disappearances; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; a judiciary that in some cases appeared to arrive at outcomes not supported by publicly available evidence or that appeared to reflect political motivations; reports of political prisoners and detainees; restrictions on academic freedom; impunity for security forces; harassment of some civil society organizations; limits on religious freedom; official corruption; limits on civil society organizations; violence, harassment, and societal discrimination against women and girls, including female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); child abuse; discrimination against persons with disabilities; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against religious minorities; discrimination and arrests based on sexual orientation; discrimination against HIV-positive persons; and worker abuse, including child labor.
The government inconsistently punished or prosecuted officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in government. In most cases the government did not comprehensively investigate human rights abuses, including most incidents of violence by security forces, contributing to an environment of impunity.
Attacks by terrorist organizations caused arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life. Terrorist groups conducted deadly attacks on government, civilian, and security targets throughout the country, including schools, places of worship, and public transportation.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government through the right to vote in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal suffrage. Constraints on freedom of expression, association, and assembly, however, limited citizens’ ability to do so.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: The country held parliamentary elections in several rounds October through December 2015. Domestic and international observers concluded that authorities administered parliamentary elections professionally and in accordance with the laws. Observers expressed concern about restrictions on freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression and their negative effect on the political climate surrounding elections.
Domestic and international observers concluded authorities administered the 2014 presidential election professionally and in line with the law, but they expressed serious concerns regarding constraints on the freedoms of expression and association and limits on freedom of the press leading up to the election, which “prevented free political participation and severely compromised the broader electoral environment.”
Political Parties and Political Participation: The constitution grants citizens the ability to form, register, and operate political parties. The law requires new parties to have a minimum of five thousand members from at least 10 governorates. The constitution also states, “no political activity may be practiced and no political parties may be formed on the basis of religion or discrimination based on gender, origin, or sectarian basis or geographic location. No activity that is hostile to democratic principles, secretive, or of military or quasi-military nature may be practiced. Political parties may not be dissolved except by virtue of a court judgment.”
The Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, remained banned. Authorities did not ban other Islamist parties, including the Strong Egypt Party and the Building and Development Party, although those parties boycotted the 2015 parliamentary elections, citing a “negative political environment.” The Islamist al-Noor Party participated, winning 11 seats. In September, citing lack of jurisdiction, a court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a private individual demanding the dissolution of the al-Noor Party, among other parties alleged to have formed on a religious basis.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and women and minorities participated. Social and cultural barriers, however, continued to limit women’s political participation and leadership in most political parties and some government institutions. Voters elected a record number of 75 women, 36 Christians, and nine persons with disabilities to parliament during the 2015 elections, a substantial increase compared with the 2012 parliament, which included 11 women, 13 Christians, and no persons with disabilities. The House of Representatives law outlines the criteria for the electoral lists, which provides that the House of Representatives must include at least 56 women, 24 Christians, and nine persons with disabilities. In December 2015 the president appointed 28 additional members of parliament, including 14 women and two Christians. The House of Representatives law grants the president the authority to appoint House of Representatives members, not to surpass 5 percent of the total number of elected members. If the president opts to use this authority, half of his appointments must be women, according to the law. Parliament included 89 women and 38 Christians.
Women led four cabinet ministries; not all cabinet members hold portfolios. No women or members of religious minorities were among the appointed governors of the 27 governorates. No women were on the Supreme Constitutional Court. Legal experts said there were approximately 66 female judges serving in family, criminal, economic, appeals, and misdemeanor courts; that total was less than 1 percent of judges. Several senior judges were Christian.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, but the government did not consistently enforce the law. There were allegations members of the government, as well as the previous Mubarak and Morsy governments, engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Court cases still pending at year’s end were inconclusive regarding the accusations of impunity. The existing government pursued corruption cases against senior officials.
Corruption: The Central Agency for Auditing and Accounting (CAA) was the government’s anticorruption body and submitted reports to the president and the prime minister that were not available to the public. The auditing and accounting agency stationed monitors at state-owned companies to report corrupt practices. The Administrative Control Authority, another independent body, had jurisdiction over state administrative bodies, state-owned enterprises, public associations and institutions, private companies undertaking public work, and organizations to which the state contributes in any form.
On March 28, the president dismissed the head of the CAA, Hehsam Geneina. In December 2015 Geneina publicly claimed that corruption in public and government circles led to the squandering and misappropriation of more than LE 600 billion ($33 million). In January a government fact-finding committee alleged that Geneina deliberately exaggerated figures about corruption for political purposes. Geneina told media that the allegations against him were politically motivated. On July 28, a Cairo court convicted Geneina of spreading false information, sentencing him to a one-year suspended prison term and a fine of LE 20,000 ($1,100). A court rejected Geneina’s appeal on December 22 but suspended the implementation of his sentence for three years.
On January 9, the Court of Cassation rejected an appeal of a May 2015 Cairo criminal court conviction of former president Hosni Mubarak and his sons, Alaa Mubarak and Gamal Mubarak, on corruption charges, sentencing all three to three years’ imprisonment. They were also fined collectively LE 21.2 million ($1.17 million) and ordered to repay LE 125 million ($6.9 million) in stolen funds. In October 2015 the court ordered the release of Alaa Mubarak and Gamal Mubarak from prison upon completion of their sentences. No further appeals are possible.
On March 12, the government announced it had reached a reconciliation agreement with businessman Hussein Salem. Salem had lived in Spain since 2011, following sentencing in his absence to 15 years in prison on corruption charges related to the sale of natural gas and 10 years in prison on corruption charges related to the sale of electricity. According to Salem’s lawyer’s comments to media, the agreement included the transfer of 78 percent of the assets held by Salem, his children, and his grandchildren to the government.
On April 11, a Cairo court sentenced former agriculture minister Salah Eddin Helal to 10 years in prison and a fine of LE one million ($55,100). The court convicted Salah and other ministry officials of accepting bribes to help businessmen illegally acquire state land. Salah appealed the decision, and court proceedings continued at year’s end.
Financial Disclosure: There are no financial disclosure laws for public officials. A 2013 conflict-of-interest law forbids government officials from maintaining any pecuniary interest in matters over which they exercise authority.
Public Access to Information: There is no legal framework stipulating how citizens can access government information. The government generally was not responsive to requests for documents regarding government activities and did not provide reasons for its lack of responsiveness.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The government continued to exhibit an uncooperative and suspicious approach to international and local human rights organizations. Government officials publicly asserted they shared the civil society organizations’ goals, but they rarely cooperated with or responded to the organizations’ inquiries. Domestic civil society organizations criticized the government’s consultations with civil society as insufficient. Provisions in the NGO law and penal code for penalties of up to life imprisonment for requesting or accepting foreign funding to undermine state security continued to have a chilling effect on NGO operations (see section 2.b.).
Extended delays in gaining government approvals and an unclear legal environment continued to limit the ability of domestic and international NGOs to operate. State-owned and independent media frequently depicted NGOs, particularly international NGOs and domestic NGOs that received funding from international sources, as undertaking subversive activities. Some NGOs reported receiving visits or calls, to staff both at work and at home, from security service officers and tax officials monitoring their activities, as well as societal harassment.
Human rights defenders and political activists were also subjected to governmental and societal harassment and intimidation, for example, through travel bans (see section 2.d.). Print and television media published articles that included the names, photographs, business addresses, and alleged meetings held by activists, including meetings held with foreign diplomatic representatives.
Well-established, independent domestic human rights NGOs operated throughout the country. Internet activists and bloggers continued to play a significant role in publicizing information about human rights abuses. Authorities generally allowed civil society organizations not registered as NGOs to operate, but such organizations sometimes reported harassment, along with threats of government interference, investigation, asset freezes, or closure.
The government reopened investigations into the receipt of foreign funding by several human rights organizations (see section 1.b.).
Major international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and AI, did not have offices in the country after closing them in 2014 due to “concerns about the deteriorating security and political environment in the country.”
The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government did not respond to the visit requests from eight UN special rapporteurs charged with investigation or monitoring of alleged human rights abuses, including the special rapporteurs for the independence of judges and lawyers; human rights defenders; freedom of religion; torture; arbitrary detention; extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary execution; human rights and counterterrorism; and the freedom of association and assembly; as well as the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. The oldest pending request was from the special rapporteur on torture in 1996. The most recent pending request was from the special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in 2014. The government had agreed to but not yet scheduled dates for the visits of four special rapporteurs, including those responsible for the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography; violence against women; promotion of truth, justice, reparation, and provision for their nonrecurrence; and foreign debt. All four requests had been outstanding for more than two years. Authorities did not allow the ICRC access to prisoners and detainees. The Interior Ministry provided some international organizations informal access to some detention centers where authorities detained asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants to provide humanitarian assistance (see section 2.d.).
Government Human Rights Bodies: The NCHR monitored government abuses of human rights and submitted citizen complaints to the government. A number of well-known human rights activists served on the organization’s board, although some observers alleged the board’s effectiveness was sometimes limited because it lacked sufficient resources and the government rarely acted on its findings. The council at times challenged and criticized government policies and practices, calling for steps to improve its human rights record. For example, the NCHR called for improved prison conditions and for repeal of the protest law.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, although the legal definition of rape covers only forced penetration of the female sexual organ by the male sexual organ, prescribing criminal penalties of 15 to 25 years’ imprisonment or life imprisonment for cases of rape involving armed abduction. Spousal rape is not illegal. The government did not effectively enforce the law. Civil society organizations reported police pressure not to pursue charges and fear of societal reprisal actively discouraged women from going to police stations to report crimes, resulting in a very small number of cases being investigated or effectively prosecuted. NGOs estimated the prevalence of rape was several times higher than the rate reported by the government.
Domestic violence continued to be a significant problem. According to the Egypt Economic Cost of Gender-Based Violence Survey (ECGBVS), published by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), UN Fund Population (UNFPA), and National Council for Women (NCW), approximately 5.6 million women were exposed to violence perpetrated by a husband or fiance annually. The law does not prohibit domestic violence or spousal abuse, but authorities may apply provisions relating to assault with accompanying penalties. The law requires that an assault victim produce multiple eyewitnesses, a difficult condition for domestic abuse victims, making prosecutions extremely rare. NGOs reported police often treated domestic violence as a social rather than criminal matter.
Several NGOs offered counseling, legal aid, and other services to women who were victims of rape and domestic violence but operated under strained resources. The Ministry of Social Solidarity supported nine women’s shelters. The Interior Ministry includes a unit responsible for combating sexual and gender-based violence. The NCW, a quasi-governmental body, was responsible for coordinating government and civil society efforts to empower women. In April 2015 the NCW launched a five-year National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women with four strategic objectives: prevention, protection, intervention, and prosecution. As part of the strategy’s implementation during the year, several ministries, in cooperation with UNFPA, developed a medical protocol for assisting survivors of violence and trained doctors in 172 hospitals as of May regarding how to implement the protocol. Additionally, authorities created a new forensic unit for violence against women and children. On June 26, the Ministry of Justice announced it had merged two assistant minister portfolios, creating an assistant minister of justice for human rights and the rights of the woman and child. The government assigned a female judge, who previously held the position of assistant minister of justice for the rights of the woman and child, as assistant minister of the combined portfolios.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal, but it remained a serious problem. According to the 2015 Egypt Health Issues Survey (EHIS), published during the year by the Ministry of Health and Population, 70 percent of girls between 15 and 19 years old had undergone FGM/C, a decrease from 81 percent in 2008. According to the same survey, 93 percent of ever-married women between 15 and 49 years old had undergone FGM/C. The survey showed that 54 percent of mothers supported FGM/C, a decrease from 75 percent in 2000. The Ministry of Health and Population prepared the EHIS in partnership with UNFPA, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other international partners. In June 2015 the government launched its National Strategy for the Abandonment of FGM/C, led by the Population Ministry in partnership with the United Nations and other international partners.
An amendment to the FGM/C law, issued on September 28, designates the practice a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor as it was previously, and assigns penalties of five to seven years in prison for practitioners who perform the procedure, or 15 years if the practice led to death or “permanent deformity.” Those who “accompany” the girl or woman to the FGM/C procedure are subject to one to three years in prison according to the amendment. The law continued to grant exceptions in cases of “medical necessity,” which rights groups identified as a problematic loophole that allowed the practice to continue. According to international and local observers, the government did not effectively enforce the FGM/C law and did not make adequate budget allocations to raise awareness. On May 28, 17-year-old Mayar Moussa died after undergoing an illegal FGM/C procedure at a hospital in Suez Governorate, prompting a critical public reaction. The Office of the Prosecutor General issued arrest warrants for seven suspects involved in the case, and in June authorities referred four of the seven to criminal court. On December 20, a Suez criminal court sentenced the doctor who performed the procedure to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of LE 50,000 ($2,750) and sentenced three others, including Moussa’s mother, to a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of LE 5,000 ($275).
In July authorities arrested the doctor convicted of manslaughter in January 2015 after performing an illegal FGM/C procedure on 13-year-old Sohair el-Batea, who died as a result. He had initially avoided arrest and continued practicing medicine intermittently, despite his conviction and a court order that his clinic be closed. In November authorities announced they would charge the clinic with violating the closure order. The doctor and the girl’s father were the first individuals brought to trial since the 2008 law banned FGM/C.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law does not specifically address “honor” crimes, which are treated as any other crime. There were no reliable statistics regarding the incidence of killings and assaults motivated by “honor,” but observers stated such killings occurred, particularly in rural areas. On June 16, police arrested one suspect related to an “honor” crime in Minoufia Governorate after a brother killed his sister for allegedly practicing prostitution.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a serious problem. According to a study published in 2013 by the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, known as UN Women, 99 percent of women and girls in the country’s sample reported they had experienced some form of sexual harassment. According to the ECGBVS, more than 1.7 million women suffered from sexual harassment on public transportation. NGOs reported the overall incidence of sexual harassment increased during times of large public gatherings, such as during holidays.
The government prioritized efforts to address sexual harassment. Since 2014 the penal code has defined sexual harassment as a crime, with penalties including fines and sentences of six months to five years in prison. Media and NGOs reported that sexual harassment by police was also a problem, and the potential for further harassment further discouraged women from filing complaints. There were no reported convictions under the antiharassment law, although media reported many arrests. The NCW reported 91 official complaints of sexual harassment during Eid al-Fitr celebrations in July, while some local media reports cited higher numbers. The outcome of these cases was unclear.
In March 2015 a video circulated on social media of five police officers sexually assaulting and beating two women during a security raid in Daqahliya Governorate. The Ministry of Interior announced it would open an investigation, but it had not announced the results of the investigation by year’s end.
Reproductive Rights: The law recognizes the basic right of married couples to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Social, cultural, and religious barriers, however, restricted women’s rights to make reproductive decisions and to attain the highest standard of reproductive health. Although the government did not restrict citizens’ family-planning decisions, men and women did not always have the information and means to make decisions free from discrimination and coercion. The ECGBVS found that 87 percent of ever-married urban women and 85 percent of ever-married rural women used some form of family planning. According to 2015 estimates by UNFPA, 58 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 were using a modern method of contraceptives, and 12 percent of women have an unmet need for family planning.
The Ministry of Health and Population distributed contraceptive materials and provided personnel to attend births, postpartum care to mothers and children, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases at no cost. According to the 2014 Egyptian Demographic Health Survey (EDHS), published in 2015 by the ministry, 90 percent of mothers received at least some antenatal care from a trained provider, and 83 percent of mothers had at least four antenatal visits. A doctor or trained nurse/midwife assisted at the delivery of 92 percent of all births with 87 percent occurring in a health facility. Some NGOs reported government family planning information and services were not adequate to meet the needs of the population, particularly outside urban areas.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal rights for male and female citizens. Women did not effectively enjoy the same legal rights and opportunities as men, and discrimination continued to be widespread. Aspects of the law and traditional practices continued to disadvantage women in family, social, and economic life.
Women continued to face widespread societal discrimination, threats to their physical security, and workplace bias in favor of men that hindered their social and economic advancement. The NCW, members of which the government appointed, led efforts to combat discrimination.
In August, Safaa Hegazy, the director of state-run Egyptian radio and television, barred eight anchorwomen from appearing on the air for a month, saying they were overweight. Hegazy reportedly ordered the women to go on a diet during their suspensions and that unspecified action be taken against them if they were unsuccessful.
Laws affecting marriage and personal status generally corresponded to an individual’s religious group. For example, a female Muslim citizen cannot legally marry a non-Muslim man. If she were to do so unofficially, she would face significant societal harassment. Under the government’s interpretation of Islamic law, any children from such a marriage could be placed in the custody of a male Muslim guardian. “Khula” divorce allows a Muslim woman to obtain a divorce without her husband’s consent, provided she forgoes all her financial rights, including alimony, dowry, and other benefits. The Coptic Orthodox Church permits divorce only in rare circumstances, such as adultery or conversion of one spouse to another religious group. Other Christian churches permitted divorce.
A Muslim female heir receives half the amount of a male heir’s inheritance, and Christian widows of Muslims have no inheritance rights. A sole Muslim female heir receives half her parents’ estate, and the balance goes to the siblings of the parents or the children of the siblings if the siblings are deceased. A sole male heir, who is expected to provide for relatives, inherits his parents’ entire estate.
A woman’s testimony is equal to that of a man in courts dealing with all matters except for personal status, such as marriage and divorce. In marriage and divorce cases, a woman’s testimony must be judged credible to be admissible. Usually the woman accomplishes this credibility by conveying her testimony through an adult male relative or representative. The law assumes a man’s testimony is credible unless proven otherwise.
The law makes it difficult for women to access formal credit. While the law allows women to own property, social and religious barriers strongly discouraged women’s ownership of land, a primary source of collateral in the banking system. The threat of criminal bankruptcy and fear of prison conditions contributed to extremely low rates of women accessing commercial credit.
Women faced extensive discrimination in the labor force. Labor laws provide for equal rates of pay for equal work for men and women in the public but not the private sector. In 2014 the World Economic Forum found that women received 78 percent of the income of their male counterparts–not of men in general. Educated women had employment opportunities, but social pressure against women pursuing a career was strong. Women’s rights advocates claimed religious influence as well as traditional and cultural attitudes and practices inhibited further gains. Large sectors of the economy controlled by the military excluded women from high-level positions, since women do not serve in the military except in limited specific capacities, and thus did not have access to these jobs. According to the UN Development Program, women represented 23 percent of the labor force. According to the governmental CAPMAS, the female unemployment rate was more than 24 percent, compared with 9.8 percent for men. The Ministry of Social Solidarity operated more than 150 family counseling bureaus nationwide to provide legal and medical services to unemployed women who were unmarried or did not reside with family.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship through the citizenship of their parents. The mother or the father transmits citizenship and nationality. The government attempted to register all births soon after birth but some citizens in remote and tribal areas, such as the Sinai Peninsula, resisted registration or could not document their citizenship, thus rendering it difficult to register births. The government cooperated with NGOs in addressing this problem. In some cases failure to register resulted in denial of public services, particularly in urban areas where most services required presentation of a national identification card.
Education: Education is compulsory, free, and universal until the ninth grade. The law provides this benefit to stateless persons and refugees. Some public schools enrolled Syrian refugees, but they largely excluded other nationalities. Other refugee children attended private and community-based schools, if they had the resources or assistance, or were home schooled.
Child Abuse: The constitution defines a child as anyone under the age of 18. It stipulates the government shall protect children from all forms of violence, abuse, mistreatment, and commercial and sexual exploitation. There were widespread reports of child abuse, according to local and international rights groups. According to a local rights group, hundreds of cases were recorded each month, and many cases went unreported. According to UNICEF, at least 80 percent of children between 13 and 17 years old were exposed to some form of violence (physical, emotional, or sexual). No effective government institutions were dedicated to addressing child abuse, although several civil society organizations assisted runaway and abandoned children.
In April a security guard at a private school in Nasr City allegedly raped a three-year-old boy. Family members of the victim claimed that authorities failed to arrest the security guard despite other students identifying him as the attacker and claimed that the forensic report could take up to four months, rather than the 15 days that media reports claimed was average. The Egyptian Coalition for Children’s Rights claimed this case highlighted the lack of enforcement of child protection laws.
Rights organizations reported children faced mistreatment in detention, including torture, sharing cells with adults, denial of their right to counsel, and authorities’ failure to notify their families. For example, HRW reported that security forces allegedly tortured a group of 20 individuals, eight of them children, in February after arrests in Alexandria. According to HRW, relatives and lawyers said authorities refused to acknowledge holding them or to tell their families their whereabouts for more than a week and tortured them to obtain confessions to crimes or provide the names of other suspects.
In December 2015 AI reported that security forces detained 14-year-old Mazen Mohamed Abdallah in September 2015 and initially held him for seven days without contacting his family. Authorities later charged Abdallah with belonging to a banned group, protesting without authorization, and printing flyers inciting protests. AI reported that authorities tortured Abdallah, including by repeatedly raping him with a wooden stick and subjecting him to electric shocks, while in custody in adult detention facilities in the First Nasr City and the Second Nasr City. The Interior Ministry denied these claims. On January 31, authorities released Abdallah pending investigation.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18. According to the ECGBVS, 27 percent of girls married before age 18. Among ever-married women between the ages of 18 to 64, 11 percent reported that their consent to marry was never sought. A few women reported that their consent had been sought; they had refused, but the marriage had taken place anyway. As many as 15 percent of all marriages in the country were child marriages (of an unspecified age), according to remarks made by the minister of population to media in August 2015. Media reported some child marriages were temporary marriages intended to mask child prostitution. Families sometimes forced adolescent girls to marry wealthy foreign men in what were known locally as “tourism” or “summer” marriages for the purpose of sexual exploitation, prostitution, or forced labor. According to the law, a foreign man who wants to marry an Egyptian woman more than 25 years younger than he is must pay a fine of LE 50,000 ($2,750). Women’s rights organizations argued that allowing foreign men to pay a fine to marry much younger women represented a form of trafficking and encouraged child marriage. They called on the government to eliminate the system altogether. The Antitrafficking Unit at the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), a governmental body, is responsible for raising awareness of the problem.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: See information provided in women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for sentences of not less than five years in prison and fines of up to LE 200,000 ($11,000) for commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. The government did not adequately enforce the law. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18. NGOs and local media reported sex tourism and the number of street children in Cairo and other metropolitan areas (where criminals sometimes sexually exploited children) remained high due to economic hardship. Temporary marriages were also sometimes used to mask sexual exploitation of children and child prostitution.
Displaced Children: Experts who worked with street children struggled to define exactly to whom the term “displaced children” applied, and consequently estimates of the number of children on the streets varied. The Ministry of Social Solidarity estimated the number of street children to be 20,000, while civil society organizations estimated the number to be in the millions. Many were victims of violence and sexual abuse, including forced prostitution. The ministry offered shelters to street children, but many chose not to use them because they closed at night, forcing the children onto the streets. Religious institutions and NGOs provided services for street children, including meals, clothing, and literacy classes. The Ministry of Health and Population offered mobile health clinics staffed by nurses and social workers.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The country’s Jewish community is tiny and dwindling. Criticism of Israel frequently reached the level of blatant anti-Semitism in public discourse. State-owned and private media used anti-Semitic rhetoric, including by academics, cultural figures, and clerics, with cartoons demonizing Jews. There were multiple reports of imams using anti-Semitic rhetoric in their sermons. Societal anti-Semitism was widespread.
In March Members of Parliament (MPs) used MP Tawfik Okasha’s meeting with the Israeli ambassador to vote to strip Okasha of his membership. MP Kamal Ahmed struck Okasha in the head with a shoe on the floor of parliament–an act that he said was a “message to Netanyahu and all Zionists.”
In May and June, the government-owned newspaper al-Ahram published a series of anti-Semitic articles, accusing Jews of “plotting to enslave the world,” “claiming that their religion is the only religion,” “inventing atheism,” “leading countries to religious and political extremism,” and staging an “economic takeover of the world.” Most of these allegations of “evil” referenced the long-debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In July professor and political activist Mamdouh Hamza posted a series of tweets in which he expressed his opposition to a rumored proposed law to sell Egyptian citizenship. Hamza said he feared Jews who had been forced out of the country in the 1950s and 1960s might return to “overturn Egyptian laws” and “confiscate” land. Media amplified Hamza’s statements.
For the sixth consecutive year, authorities cancelled the Abu Hassira celebrations scheduled for January, preventing an annual Jewish pilgrimage, which in previous years had included many Israelis, to the shrine of 19th-century scholar Rabbi Yaakov Abu Hassira. The cancellation followed a 2014 administrative court decision to ban the festival permanently, stating the festival was a “violation of public order and morals” and “incompatible with the solemnity and purity of religious sites.”
An appeal continued in the 2014 case of 37 Islamists sentenced to death and 492 others to life imprisonment whom a Minya criminal court described as “demons” who followed Jewish scripture. The court also described the men as “enemies of the nation” who used mosques to promote the teachings of “their holy book, the Talmud.” The court had sentenced them for involvement in acts of violence, breaking into and burning a police station, burning police vehicles, stealing weapons, killing one police officer, and attempting to kill another in Minya in 2013. Authorities scheduled the next hearing for January 4, 2017. As of September, 183 of the defendants were in custody pending appeal.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution states all citizens “are equal in rights, freedoms, and general duties without discrimination based on…disability” among other attributes, but it does not explicitly “prohibit” discrimination.
Although the constitution states persons with disabilities are equal without discrimination before the law, at year’s end no laws prohibited discrimination against persons with disabilities in education, air travel and other transportation, the judicial system, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. Nor did laws mandate access to buildings or transportation.
The law provides for persons with disabilities to gain access to vocational training and employment but does not outlaw discrimination altogether. Government policy for employing persons with disabilities is based on a quota (5 percent of workers with disabilities) for companies with more than 50 employees. According to most sources, authorities did not enforce this quota, and companies often had persons with disabilities on their payroll to meet the quota without actually employing them. Widespread discrimination continued against persons with disabilities, particularly persons with mental disabilities, resulting in a lack of acceptance into mainstream society. Government-operated treatment centers for persons with disabilities, especially children, were of poor quality.
The Ministries of Education and Social Solidarity share responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities rode government-owned mass transit buses without charge, but the buses were not wheelchair-accessible, and access required assistance from others. Persons with disabilities received special subsidies to purchase household products, wheelchairs, and prosthetic devices. Persons with disabilities also received expeditious approval for the installation of new telephone lines and received reductions on customs duties for specially equipped private vehicles.
The law prohibits discrimination on any grounds. Nevertheless, dark-skinned Egyptians and sub-Saharan Africans faced discrimination and harassment. In particular Nubians from Upper Egypt experienced discrimination because of their skin color or because the public perceived them to be sub-Saharan African migrants or refugees.
According to the constitution, the state should make efforts to return Nubians to their original territories and develop such territories within 10 years of the constitution’s 2014 ratification.
In August, President Sisi issued a decree assigning 922 feddans (957 acres) of state-owned land to a new agricultural development project. Nubian rights organizations claimed this would deprive the Nubian community of access to ancestral homelands. In protest of this action, hundreds of Nubians formed a convoy to attempt to access a historical Nubian village incorporated into the state project. On November 19, when security forces blocked the convoy on a highway between the city of Aswan and Abu Simbel, the Nubians began a protest. Related clashes subsequently erupted in Aswan between security forces and protesters, with security forces reportedly firing rubber bullets and live rounds at protesters after they blocked roads and burned tires. Security forces surrounded the protesters’ encampment and prevented them from receiving food and water. Senior government officials including the prime minister and members of parliament attempted to negotiate an end to the protests, and the prime minister reportedly promised that Nubians would have priority rights to some of the land in the development project. On November 23, protesters dispersed and begin seeking a resolution with the government through negotiations, according to a Nubian rights lawyer’s comments to the press.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
While the law does not explicitly criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, it allows police to arrest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons on charges such as “debauchery,” “prostitution,” and “violating the teachings of religion” and provides for prison sentences of up to 10 years. According to a local rights group, there were at least 250 reports of such arrests since 2013. Authorities did not use antidiscrimination laws to protect LGBTI individuals. Gay men, lesbians, and transgender persons faced significant social stigma and discrimination, impeding their ability to organize or publicly advocate on behalf of LGBTI persons. Information was not available on official or private discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no government efforts to address potential discrimination.
There were few reported incidents of violence against LGBTI individuals, although intimidation and the risk of arrest greatly restricted open reporting and contributed to self-censorship. Rights groups and activists reported harassment by police, including physical assault and forced payment of bribes to provide information about other LGBTI individuals or to avoid arrest. The government has the authority to deport or bar entry to gay foreigners.
There were reports that authorities used social media, dating websites, and cell phone apps to entrap persons they suspected of being gay or transgender, a tool that LGBTI advocates described as especially effective as LGBTI-friendly public spaces had largely closed over the past two years.
On April 24, an Agouza misdemeanor court convicted 11 men of debauchery, incitement to debauchery, and other charges, sentencing three of the 11 to 12 years in prison, three to nine years, one to six years, and four to three years. A local rights group condemned the verdict as part of an orchestrated police campaign against LGBTI individuals. On May 29, an appeals court acquitted one of the defendants and reduced the others’ sentences to one-year’s imprisonment.
In January the court acquitted television host Mona Iraqi of defaming the 26 arrested men charged with “practicing debauchery” and “indecent public acts.” Police had raided a traditional bathhouse known as a hammam in Cairo in 2014 and arrested them, but a misdemeanor court acquitted all 26 in January 2015. Iraqi had posted photographs of the men being dragged out of the hammam on Facebook and had been convicted of publishing false news in November 2015. Her acquittal came after a Cairo court accepted her appeal.
Authorities continued to subject individuals detained on suspicion of debauchery to forced anal examinations, according to a local rights group.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
HIV-positive individuals faced significant social stigma and discrimination in society and the workplace. According to the EDHS, fewer than 1 percent of men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 expressed accepting attitudes towards those with HIV/AIDS. The health-care system provided anonymous counseling and testing for HIV, free adult and pediatric antiretroviral therapy, and support groups. Authorities paid insufficient attention to the specific needs of women and children, particularly in the areas of medical treatment, psychosocial support, and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
There were incidents of mob violence and vigilantism, particularly sectarian violence against Coptic Egyptians. On May 20, a mob of approximately 300 armed Muslim residents of Minya’s el-Karm village attacked seven Christian households after rumors spread of an affair between a Christian man and Muslim woman, according to media reports. The mob burned several Christian-owned homes and stripped naked an elderly Christian woman whom they paraded through the streets. In comments to media, the president promised to hold perpetrators of the violence accountable and repair damaged property at government expense. The armed forces rebuilt damaged property. On October 6, the prosecutor general referred 25 suspects to trial on charges of illegal assembly, arson, vandalism, and illegal possession of firearms. As of year’s end, the date for a hearing had yet to be set.