Egypt sentences female TikTok stars to 2 years in prison for “violating public morals”

Egypt sentences female TikTok stars to 2 years in prison for “violating public morals”

Egypt

Two social media influencers have been sentenced to two years in jail in Egypt for posting ‘indecent videos’ that, according to the state, ‘violate public morals’. Women in Egypt continue to be subjugated to horrifying injustices including punishment for adultery, harassment, abuse and female genital mutilation.

Twenty-year old Cairo University student Haneen Hossam and 22-year old Mawada al-Adham were charged with separate offences, including publishing indecent photos and videos on social media, encouraging young women to build friendships with men through video apps and capitalising on this by receiving a fee.

Associated Press obtained a statement from the public prosecutor that claimed the Cairo Economic Court sentenced Hossam and al-Adham and three other women who helped manage their social media accounts. Both women have been charged with “violating the values and principles of the Egyptian family,” and “promoting human trafficking and inciting debauchery”. 

The women were also fined 300,000 Egyptian pounds (AUD$26,180). Cairo-based women’s rights lawyer Intissar al-Saeed, who specialises in women’s rights at the Cairo Centre for Development told Aljazeera the verdict is shocking, though expected. 

“It is still a dangerous indicator, regardless of the divergent views on the content presented by the girls on TikTok, it still is not a reason for imprisonment,” she said. 

In April, Hossam was arrested for posting a three-minute clip telling her 1.3 million followers that girls could make money by working with her. Government officials accused her of trying to recruit ‘digital sex workers’. Before her arrest, she released a video saying “There are famous actors that use TikTok. Does this mean they work in prostitution?”

Mawada al-Adham has more than 1.6m followers on Instagram and over 3.2 million on Tiktok. 

In May, al-Adham was arrested for posting satirical videos on TikTok and Instagram. Her lawyer has announced that both women would be appealing this latest verdict. According to Al Jazezzra, more than more than 40 percent of Egypt’s youth population have social media accounts.

In the last 24 hours, hundreds of women’s rights activists across the Middle East and around the world have publicly condemned the arrests.

On Twitter, بعد_اذن_الاسرة_المصرية (which translates to “with the permission of the Egyptian family”) has been trending, with high profile public commentators including Mona Eltahawy and May El-Sadany declaring Egypt to be an oppressive, misogynistic state.

A Change.org petition has been launched, demanding the release of the influencers. It has so far tracked almost 1800 signatures.

“We are a group of women calling on state authorities to stop targeting women on TikTok,” the petition begins. “We call on the National Council for Women to provide legal support for Haneen Hossam, Mawada El-Adham, Menna AbdelAziz, Sherry Hanem, Nora Hesham, Manar Samy, Reenad Emad, Hadeer Hady, and Bassant Mohamed.”

In the last few years, the Egyptian government has been clamping down on female singers and dancers on social media for posting videos that have been deemed ‘suggestive’ and ‘racy’. In June, an Egyptian court sentenced famous belly dancer Sama El-Masry to three years for charges of “inciting debauchery.” The videos show El-Masry moving her hips, dancing as any other ordinary woman dances to ordinary music.

El-Masry, 42, who is also a well-known actress and singer, claimed that her mobile phone was stolen and videos shared without her consent.

John Talaat, a member of parliament who asked for legal action against El-Masry and other female TikTok influencers said, “There’s a huge difference between freedom and debauchery.”

Talaat told Reuters in June that El-Masry and female figures like her were “destroying family values and traditions, activities that were banned by the law and the constitution.” 

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