The Administrative Judiciary Court ruled on Tuesday that it has no jurisdiction over a case demanding a legislative amendment permitting the death penalty for minors who rape or murder other children, amid a rise in such incidents.
The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) said in a Sunday statement that it would not “turn a blind eye” to voices calling for such legislative amendments, which it said aim to protect children, particularly due to the “increasing incidence of violence against children.”
“It sets off alarm bells to alert the society to the dangers of violence against children,” General Director of the NCCM Azza El Ashmawy told Al-Ahram Digital on April 5.
The incidents are limited in comparison to the wider population, but “they require urgent intervention from all concerned parties before they escalate into a phenomenon,” Ashmawy said.
Not all organizations agree with harsher punishments for minors, however.
The Egyptian Coalition on Children’s Rights (ECCR) denounced in February press statements proposed amendments to instate harsher punishments on minors.
The coalition said organizations making such demands were “unaware of the main principles of children’s rights,” and described their demands as “unacceptable.”
Calls for amendments and criticism
The NCCM said it would not call for a reduction in the age considered an adult in Egypt, which is 18, because it protects children against child labor and marriage.
However, when a minor commits a “shocking” crime such as rape or murder, the legal provisions that should apply to them should not be governed by their age, it added.
The NCCM released a report about the incidents of violence committed by minors in the month of April. It showed a total of 23 cases, which included murders and rape, mostly against other children.
In April, the NCCM submitted recommendations from a workshop it had organized to discuss legislative amendments regarding women and children to interim President Adly Mansour. The recommendations included a maximum and minimum penalty for minors who commit “shocking crimes,” so that a judge would be able to apply a suitable punishment.
The calls to reduce the age considered an adult in Egypt began in the wake of a high-profile case in Port Said, where a five-year-old girl named Zeina was thrown off a rooftop after two teenage boys tried to rape her in November 2013.
A court sentenced the young girl’s murderers – one 16, the other 17 – to 15 and 20 years of jail time respectively, the highest punishment allowed for those under 18.
The ECCR sympathized with the family of Zeina, but said that harsher punishments for minors would be “unjust.”
Rise in crimes committed by children
According to Youm7, in April two boys and an 18-year-old kidnapped an eight-year-old girl named Hagar, after beating her nine-year-old brother who was accompanying her on their way home in the Dakahlia governorate.
They sexually assaulted her, but when they failed to rape her, they tortured her for more than three hours with a gas hose, finally leaving her in a deserted area.
Also in April, a 15-year-old boy sexually assaulted two nine-year-old cousins, a boy and a girl, after luring them into a public bathroom in Alexandria, according to Ahram Online.
In another NCCM report on violence against children, from January 2013 to March 2014, dozens of minors were found to be involved in the murder and rape of dozens of other minors. A total of 33 children were killed during that period by children.
In Beheira, two boys, ages 12 and 13, raped a nine-year old boy in March. The victim’s 61-year-old father noticed his son suffering from pain. When asked, the son said that two school students raped him in a deserted street on the first day of the school semester, Youm7 reported.
In February, three-year-old Ahmed was raped by his 13-year-old male neighbor in Sharqia. When the perpetrator’s parents found out, they strangled Ahmed to death, whose dead body was later was found with sand in his eyes and anus, reported Youm7.
In December of 2013, two boys ages 14 and 16, killed a 25-year-old woman in Fayoum by stabbing her in the neck as she screamed when they attempted to rape her. Her body, fully clothed, was found in a nearby farm, reported Vetogate.
On May 7, the Cabinet approved a new sexual harassment law which, unprecedentedly, acknowledges that the victim may be male or female. It was part of recommendations submitted to Mansour by several women rights organizations, including NCCM.
However, only a male can be a rapist and a female can be raped, according to Egyptian law. Also, only non-consensual, out-of-wedlock vaginal penetration with a penis is considered rape in Egyptian law.
Any other form of coercive sex is considered “indecent assault,” which results in far less severe penalties.