An important Egyptian belly dancer was sentenced to three years in prison and hit with a £ 15,000 fine for harboring “immorality”.
The sentencing of Sama el-Masry, who was sentenced to pay 300,000 Egyptian pounds on Saturday, is part of a wider crackdown on content shared on social media.
The 42-year-old, who said she appealed, was arrested in April during an investigation of videos and photos on social media, including the popular TikTok video sharing platform, which the prosecution believed was sexually suggestive.
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El-Masry denies the accusations against her and claims that the content was stolen and shared on her phone without consent.
A court in Cairo said it violated family principles and values, as well as establishing, managing and using sites and accounts on social media with the aim of committing “immorality”.
John Talaat, a member of parliament who has filed a lawsuit against Ms. El-Masry and other women participating in the TikTok, said: “There is a huge difference between freedom and debauchery.”
Talaat told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that Ms. El-Masry and other female social media influencers were destroying family values and traditions, activities prohibited by law and constitution.
Several women in Egypt have previously been accused of “inciting debauchery” by defying the country’s conservative social norms, including actor Rania Youssef after critics took her dress choice for the Cairo film festival in 2018.
In 2018, Egypt adopted a cybercrime law that grants the government full authority to censor the Internet and exercise communications surveillance. The law provides for prison terms of at least two years and a fine of up to 300,000 Egyptian pounds.
A group of female influencers and YouTubers from TikTok and Instagram have been arrested in recent months by the Egyptian authorities on charges of promoting debauchery and prostitution on social media.
Talaat said that influencers should face the same prison sentences as Ms El-Masry in that they committed the same crime.
Entessar el-Saeed, a women’s rights lawyer and head of the Center for Development and Law in Cairo, said women are the only group targeted by the authorities under this law.
“Our conservative society is struggling with technological changes, which have created a completely different environment and mentality,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Egypt ranks first in the gender equality ranking compared to other countries in the world – with United Nations women claiming that “patriarchal norms” are rooted in the country.
Women in Egypt are more likely to engage in informal work that often goes hand in hand with a lack of social protection, so they are therefore more exposed to deprivation.
Additional reports from Reuters