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Egypt’s parliament has approved a draft law that will impose tougher penalties for sexual crimes, in a move welcomed by female politicians as “a leap forward”.

The bill makes sexual assault a criminal offence, as opposed to a misdemeanour, carrying a potential prison sentence of seven years where a weapon is used, or multiple attackers are involved.

The minimum jail term would also be increased to 18 months.

It follows a move last year to encourage women to report sexual harassment and assault by giving them an automatic right to anonymity.

Incidents of gender-based violence rose significantly last year in Egypt, particularly in major cities, with NGOs reporting more than 400 rapes and an escalation of domestic violence.

Research shows that most Egyptian women experience sexual harassment at least once in their lives.

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