A shocking appeal verdict of two years in prison against a child, Mokka Hegazy, on “Anti-Prostitution Law” Charges

Press Release

1 June 2022

The Public Prosecution must immediately stop charging children of “habitual practice of prostitution and debauchery”, and it must protect victims of human trafficking as stipulated in its obligations

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) condemns the ruling issued yesterday, Tuesday, May 31, 2022, by the Child Appeal Court of Misdemeanor, against EIPR's client, Mokka Hegazi (nickname), born in January 2005, who was 16 years old at the time of the incidents for which she was brought to trial. The verdict ruled an imprisonment for two years in accordance with Article 14 of Law No. 10 of 1961 “for combating prostitution” for “advertising by any means an invitation that includes temptation to debauchery or prostitution,” in addition to putting her under judicial probation in accordance with Article 9 of the same law for “habitual practice of prostitution.” The judicial probation, as defined by the Child Law in Article 106, is “putting the child in his natural environment under direction and supervision and with due regard to the duties determined by the court, and the judicial probation period may not exceed three years. Should the child fail the probation, the matter is again presented to court to undertake any other measures it would deem appropriate.”

EIPR denounces the Public Prosecution’s decision from the first moment in the case to treat Mokka Hegazi as a defendant, while at the same time investigating another person and referring him to court - which later convicts him – on charges of human trafficking for trafficking Mokka Hegazy and sexually and commercially exploiting her by photographing and publishing photos and clips of her. If the conviction of the other defendant absolves the girl from legal responsibility for those acts in accordance with the “Human Trafficking Law”, this would be inconsistent with the court’s conviction of her – the victim of Human Trafficking- for “advertising an invitation that includes temptation to prostitution” on the same clips and photos that she did not film or publish herself, especially that the technical report in the case indicated that the photos and clips were recorded on his phone.

EIPR's lawyer, Aziza Al-Taweel, Mokka Hegazi’s attorney, says that it is assumed that the human trafficking law guarantees victims in trafficking cases a package of rights aimed at protecting them, none of which were granted to Mokka Hegazi. The Public Prosecution Office ignored the defaming campaigns against the victim in various media outlets, which stigmatized her and endangered her life.  The media did not hesitate to publish her official name and details of her personal information - which contradicts the responsibility of the prosecution and the various courts to protect the identity of victims of human trafficking. Even more serious is the accusation of a child of “habitual practice of prostitution”, in violation of the approach of the legislator in the Penal Code, which did not regard the consent of a child in a offenses of indecent assault against her/him,  and considered him/her a victim despite the lack of use of force or threat, and toughened the penalty for the offender if the victim was under the age of eighteen.

Mokka Hegazi was arrested in July 2021 without a warrant and without being caught in the act, after what the Ministry of Interior investigations called "demands from citizens on social media to arrest her like other similar social media celebrities." In addition, the Ministry of the Interior acted on the basis of a report submitted by a lawyer who is known to pursue women content creators on social media, especially those who come from poor social and economic backgrounds. Then Mokka was interrogated in the absence of a defense, which is her inherent legal right, especially considering that she is a child. A few days later, the police arrested a person whose data Mokka Hegazi provided as the owner of the phone that was used to film the photos and videos under investigation, and noted that he was the one who asked her to take pictures and decide their content. Since then, violations against Mokka continued by refusing to release her in conjunction with the Public Prosecution’s treatment of her as a victim in a case of human trafficking and child exploitation according to the Child Law, then interrogating her for multiple accusations that varied across the different stages of the interrogation and concluded by referring her to trial for charges of “practicing prostitution” and advertising it according to the “Anti-Prostitution Law”. In addition, she was held in a juvenile care home - a place of detention for those under the age of 18.

On the other hand, the Public Prosecution referred the person accused of trafficking in Mokka Hegazi to trial on charges of human trafficking, and entrusted the Child Prosecution with looking into Mokka Hegazi’s position herself, upon which the Child Prosecution referred her to trial in front of the child misdemeanor court for accusations of “advertising an invitation that includes temptation of prostitution” and “habitual practice of prostitution.”  Accordingly, the court sentenced her in February of this year to one year on the first charge, and two years in prison on the second charge. Finally, the shocking verdict was issued yesterday, upholding the conviction on the two counts, with the penalty for the first charge being replaced by judicial probation.

EIPR calls on the Public Prosecution Office to immediately stop bringing moral charges to any victims in cases of sexual violence, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. In particular, EIPR calls for an immediate end to accusations under the articles of the “Anti-Prostitution Law” for those under the age of eighteen, to stop criminalizing women and girls who are victims of human trafficking, since the prosecution's indictment of all parties in these cases - whether they were perpetrators, exploiters, or victims - sends a clear message that the victims are not safe, and they cannot seek the help of law enforcement agencies for fear of becoming accused themselves. The Public Prosecution should look upon Egyptian laws as a comprehensive package, each of which complement each other, and draw together a developed and clear logic that seeks to protect children’s rights against adult abuse and exploitation, and not settle for dealing with legal articles in isolation from each other without a binding logic. Urgently, EIPR demands that the President of the Republic issues a pardon for Mokka Hegazi in the sentence issued against her, granting her immediate release, along with providing her with housing and psychological support in line with her being a victim in accordance with the ruling of the Human Trafficking circuit on April 13, 2022, and in line with Egypt's international commitments, which it repeatedly declares, regarding combating human trafficking, and protecting its victims.