An Egyptian court has decided to prosecute Rania Youssef for wearing a lace dress to a Cairo film festival. Activists have accused Egyptian authorities of using so-called moral crimes to "control women."
A Cairo court over the weekend charged Egyptian actress Rania Youssef with "inciting debauchery" for wearing a black lace dress to the 40th Cairo International Film Festival.
At least three lawsuits were filed against her, including one by Egyptian attorney Samir Sabri, known for taking celebrities to court.
Youssef's appearance "did not meet societal values, traditions and morals and therefore undermined the reputation of the festival and the reputation of Egyptian women in particular," Sabri told the Agence France-Presse news agency.
The 44-year-old actress issued an apology on Facebook after receiving criticism and praise for wearing the dress to the film festival.
"I would like to apologize again, as an actress with good and positive standing with my fans, I hope everyone can understand that I had good intentions and did not wish to anger anyone," she said.
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'To control women'
But some Egyptians said she has nothing to apologize for. Egyptian-American feminist Mona Eltahawy, author of "Headscarves and Hymens," said prosecuting such "'moral crimes' enables conservative regimes and their societies to congratulate themselves on their ability to control women."
"In Egypt, and much of the Middle East, 'inciting debauchery' is like violating national security," Eltahawy said in a tweet. "It is a catchall flexible enough to use against a variety of moral opponents and is mobilized to unite people — regardless of politics — in righteous indignation."
Youssef's case isn't the first time an Egyptian celebrity has been charged with violating moral norms in society.
Last year, 21-year-old Egyptian singer Shaimaa Ahmed was found guilty of "inciting debauchery" in a music video. She was sentenced to two years in prison. Her sentence was later reduced to one year following an appeal. Youseff's trial is set for January 12.
ls/jlw (Reuters, AFP)