New York - The United States on Friday expressed concern
about a rise in sexual violence and gang rapes in Egypt and condemned local
politicians who have said the women are to blame.
The response came after a string of reports by AFP and
other media outlets, about women who are speaking out about rape and other
sexual attacks inflicted by groups of men at demonstrations in the wake of the
The same reports have quoted ultra-conservative Egyptian
Islamists as saying the women are asking for such attacks because they mingle
with men in public.
White House deputy spokesperson Joshua Earnest said
President Barack Obama's administration has seen the reports and is
"Sexual violence, including gang rapes, has occurred
during recent demonstrations in Egypt," Earnest told journalists aboard
Air Force One.
"This is a cause of great concern to the United
States, the international community and to many Egyptians. These victims are
the mothers, wives, daughters and sisters of Egypt."
Earnest said the Egyptian government should take measures
to prevent sexual violence and to prosecute those involved.
"The idea that some Egyptians are blaming the
victims for being raped and assaulted is abhorrent.
"We strongly condemn these views and reaffirm the right
of women to express themselves in public squares alongside men, as well as the
responsibility of the Egyptian government to protect them."
Egypt has been rocked by demonstrations in recent months
in which protesters opposed to President Mohammed Morsi - a former senior
Muslim Brotherhood figure elected last year - clash with police and supporters
of the Islamist group.
The demonstrations frequently turn violent, and several
women have been assaulted by mobs of young men in and around Cairo's central Tahrir
Square, epicentre of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
The attackers have stripped women of their clothes with
knives, beaten them and penetrated them with their fingers.
On 25 January, as thousands of Egyptians marked the second
anniversary of the uprising, at least 19 women were assaulted, according to
Operation Anti Sexual Harassment, one of several groups formed to try to stop
Foreigners reporting on the demonstrations have also been
targeted, including well-known CBS correspondent Lara Logan, who was sexually
assaulted by a mob in Tahrir Square the night Mubarak was forced to step down.
The latest US travel warning for Egypt notes "a rise
in gender-based violence in and around protest areas" and says that while Americans
have not been targeted for their nationality, they should avoid all