Cairo — The law aims to encourage women to report assault by giving victims the automatic right to anonymity

Egypt approved a new law on Sunday to protect the identity of women who come forward to report sexual harassment or assault in a move that aimed to encourage women and girls to report cases of sexual violence.

The law, which will give victims the automatic right to anonymity, comes as hundreds of women have started to speak up on social media about sexual assault in a #MeToo movement in Egypt where women have long felt disadvantaged.

Female parliamentarian Ghada Ghareeb said the law was a step “in a long road of issuing regulations that preserve women’s rights”.

“The government had noticed that there was a sharp decline in women being able to report cases of sexual assault they have been subjected to because they fear of social stigma,” Ghareeb told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ghareeb expected the approval of the law would increase reporting of sexual assaults in the coming months in the conservative, Muslim-majority nation.

The bill was approved by the cabinet early in July and submitted to parliament after being presented by the Ministry of Justice.

It followed a widely-published case in July of a university student from a wealthy background who was arrested and accused of raping and blackmailing multiple women. Investigations are continuing.

The case triggered a #MeToo wave in Egypt with the National Council for Women saying it received 400 complaints mainly about violence against women within five days of the case being made public and hundreds of women started to share stories online.