She was facing up to five years in prison, should she be convicted on charges of public obscenity – however a lawsuit against Rania Youssef has been dropped after social media backlash. The Wahed Saheh star was due to appear in court next month, after a complaint was made to Egypt’s chief prosecutor over the sheer, beaded black gown she wore over a black leotard to the closing ceremony of the Cairo International Film Festival.
The gown prompted a group of lawyers to file an official complaint, claiming the actress was inciting “debauchery”. The actress’s dress “did not meet societal values, traditions and morals and therefore undermined the reputation of the festival and the reputation of Egyptian women in particular,” complainant Samir Sabri told AFP. However the case has since been withdrawn following subsequent reaction, with the lawyers revealing they would waive their objections following Youssef’s apology.
“Rania Youssef presented an apology to the Egyptian family and society for this incident and its affirmation that it was not intentional, that it was placed in circumstances beyond its control and that the behavior was wrong and unintentional,” the complainants said in a statement, according to El Watan News. “When we took legal action, this was not for the purpose of personal gains or benefits, nor was it intended to deprive her person, but was out of concern for public order and ethics and sensing the danger facing the Egyptian society as a result of that incident, committed by a popular public figure with an audience that will try to imitate them, which may lead to the spread of chaos and the violation of standards of values and ethics.”
After the charges were first revealed, Youssef stated she didn’t mean to offend anyone with her ensemble, saying the choice of gown was a misjudgment on her part. “It was the first time that I wore it and I did not realize it would spark so much anger,” said the 44-year-old in a Facebook post, citing the influence of celebrity stylists. “I reaffirm my commitment to the values upon which we were raised in Egyptian society.”
Following the controversy, Egypt’s Artistic Syndicates Union revealed it will instate a dress code for female stars walking the red carpet. “Criteria will be set for the clothes to be worn by actresses at festivals after this crisis,” said Omar Abdul Aziz, head of the union, according to Gulf News. “This is part of an approach aimed at addressing mistakes within the concerned professional union.”
Egypt’s Actors’ Guild added in a statement that it intended to discipline actors who wore “inappropriate” outfits to the Cairo International Film Festival. “Although we absolutely believe in the personal freedom of artists, we appeal to everyone to shoulder their responsibilities toward the fans who appreciate their art and view them as role models,” read the statement. “That should compel them to exercise a minimum level of commitment to society’s public values.”