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400 teens arrested for flirting in Cairo

From correspondents in Cairo, Agence France-Presse & The Australian news, November 21, 2008

Egyptian police have rounded up hundreds of teenage boys in Cairo in a day-long crackdown on sexual harassment.

"We have arrested a large number of boys who were flirting with girls," Cairo's police director Faruq Lashin said.

About 400 teenagers, aged between 15 and 17, were arrested on Wednesday and will be brought before a judge, he said.

Police targeted teenagers in front of schools, universities and along the Nile's banks, he said.

The teenagers were expected to be fined, a police official said.

Women's rights groups in Egypt have long campaigned against sexual harassment and assault in Cairo, accusing police of ignoring the phenomenon.

On Monday, a Cairo court jailed a teenager for one year for sexually assaulting two women.

Another teenager, a 17 year old, is facing trial on the same charge.

At least 34 men were arrested after they allegedly assaulted women in an affluent Cairo neighbourhood during a Muslim holiday in January.

Such convictions are relatively rare in Egypt, which does not have a law defining sexual harassment, but a court in October sentenced a man to three years in jail for groping a woman.

Women's rights activists welcomed that ruling and said it was unprecedented in Egypt.

The Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights (ECWR) issued a survey this summer saying 83 per cent of Egyptian women and 98 per cent of foreign women in Egypt had experienced sexual harassment.

The study said only 12 per cent of the 2500 women who reported cases of sexual harassment to ECWR went to the police with their complaint.

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