Egyptian female activists have warned of a disturbing trend in violence against women after a 16-year-old girl was allegedly gunned down for spitting in the face of a man who tried to grope her.

Ramadan Nasser Salem, from Upper Egypt’s Assiut Governorate was arrested after a week-long manhunt. He denies he ever intended to kill Eman Mostafa.

He told police: “I said hello, and she thought I was harassing her and started cursing at me and spat in my face.

"I mistakenly fired my gun, and a passer-by told me the bullet hit a wall. We thought the girl was afraid and fell on the ground, but then people told us that the bullet hit her. I never meant to kill her.”

Women activists protested in front of the presidential palace, organised by Nefsi, a Cairo-based feminist and anti-sexual harassment group, to demand a law targeting sexual harassment.

A 2010 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found that 83% of Egyptian women have experienced harassment.

Dalia Abd El-Hameed, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told the Egyptian Independent that the society was becoming "more violent, and this incident is a very vivid example of this,” she says.

“He killed her. He killed her just because she defended herself. The mere fact was that she just didn’t accept what’s very accepted in society.

"When you don’t accept the norm, society punishes you. And he punished her.”

“What is most disturbing and alarming is that there is a paradigm shift, and sexual harassment now tends more to be assault.

"It’s more intrusive, it’s more bold, and I think this is the result of immunity and impunity that the perpetrators have from both the society and the police.”

Several high-profile sexual assaults have taken place at Tahrir Square, including that of CBS News reporter Lara Loganand British reporter Natasha Smith.

Mostafa’s father, Mostafa Salama, said in an interview with Al-Hayat: “I call on President Morsi to look at Upper Egypt and take care of it. This is the man who spoke of God and the Prophet Mohamed, and we voted for him. Now he should take care of us.”