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Egypt makes sexual harassment a crime

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Sarah Fouad talks about the sexual harassment she allegedly endured in Cairo, Egypt. Women's rights activists called it an epidemic in the country. (Source: CNN) Sarah Fouad talks about the sexual harassment she allegedly endured in Cairo, Egypt. Women's rights activists called it an epidemic in the country. (Source: CNN)

CAIRO, EGYPT (CNN) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ordered a crackdown on sexual harassment following incidents during a celebration for his inauguration.

Authorities arrested seven men accused of assaulting women during the celebration Sunday. The country recently made sexual harassment a crime for the first time.

However, some people are not convinced police will enforce the law.

Sarah Fouad, one of the alleged harassment victims, said it happened at the main bus depot in downtown Cairo. She was walking down the street when she noticed a man following her.

He followed her to the bus and boarded it with her.

"He asked the driver, this bus goes to where?" she said.

He continued to trail her after she got off the bus. She sat down to wait for another one.

"Then he comes closer to me and says I want you to come to my apartment," Fouad said. "Then I took off my shoe and I beat him and shouted at him and said why are you following me?"

She managed to chase away the harasser, who police later identified, and she was not hurt. But the inappropriate touching made her another victim what many call an epidemic of sexual harassment.

A U.N. study in 2013 showed nine out of 10 women in the country were victims of sexual harassment. On Sunday, a cellphone camera captured a brutal mass sexual assault of a teenage student in Tahrir Square.

CNN could not independently verify the authenticity of the video, but activist groups in Egypt said the video matches reports of assaults they received from the square that night.

An undercover investigation by an Egyptian TV station showed a man disguised as a woman was repeatedly victimized in Cairo's streets.

Women's rights activists said it was proof authorities don't take the harassment seriously. Thanks to a new law that criminalizes sexual assaults, they said there are signs that law enforcement officials are finally waking up to the problem.

The law, passed last week by former interim President Adly Mansour, makes it punishable by a minimum six months in jail and fines of roughly $400.

Activist Dalia Abd Elhameed said the new law was welcomed but added change would only come when police enforce it and the government raises public awareness.

"The state has the responsibility to guarantee the implementation and the enforcement of that law by talking to judges and by training policemen to receive complaints," she said, "and by raising the awareness of women to file complaints and end that culture of impunity."

One of the first tests of the law will come from Fouad. She filed a police case against her attacker.

"I think many people want me to win this case because it would be a big victory for the law and a big victory for the harassment law," she said.

Copyright 2014 CNN. Bilail Production and Egyptian State TV contributed to the report. All rights reserved.

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