Egypt bans statues without official approval
CAIRO - Egypt banned on Wednesday statues in squares that do not have prior approval from the authorities after public outrage over controversial and unattractive sculptures across the country.
Authorities ordered a statue in the Sohag province be altered this week after it sparked a wave of anger and mockery online over its apparent portrayal of a man sexually harassing a woman.
"It is forbidden to set up or renovate statues, murals or sculptures in Egypt's public squares except after a thorough review by the ministries of antiquities and culture," said Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.A cabinet official who asked to remain anonymous said the decision came after "the repeated setting up in the country's squares of bad statues that do not conform with Egypt's deep-rooted history".
The controversial statue of a soldier hugging a woman from behind in Sohag's town of Balyana was the latest in a series of statues that have become a laughing stock on social media.
Balyana's town mayor said the statue was intended to portray a "martyred soldier hugging his mother".
"People understood it wrong," Adli Abu Aqeel said, adding its sculptor had been asked to alter the design to a woman on her own holding up Egypt's flag.
Another statue was taken down in recent months in Minya province after it was widely mocked for its distorted depiction of Egypt's legendary 14th-century BC beauty Queen Nefertiti.
According to a 2013 UN study, 99.3 percent of Egyptian women have experienced at least one form of sexual harassment, and 82.6 percent said they did not feel safe in the street.
Public debate over the problem intensified after the 2011 uprising, with activists and lawyers saying they see progress in transforming attitudes and more harassers being jailed.