Women’s Rights in Egypt by Anna Mahjar-Barducci
“This is why women’s rights should be codified. Governments should be held responsible for treating men and women equally.”
Islamist Members of Parliament in Egypt are trying to deprive Egyptian women of their basic rights by introducing several controversial draft laws that, if passed, will bring Egypt back to the Middle Ages:
— The website Ahram Online reports that Islamists wants to cancel Law 1 of the year 2000, known as the Khula Law, which acts as an alternative route for women whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce. Through the Khula Law, courts grant women a divorce so long as they return the dowry paid by her husband prior to the marriage. Law 1 of the year 2000 was considered a step forward in women rights. Before that, Egyptian women did not have the right to divorce their husbands on their own terms.
Khula Law’s opponents argue that a woman should not be able to ask for divorce, as it is against Islamic Sharia law. As reported by the news agency AINA, the Islamist lawmaker and main Khula Law’s opponent, Mohamed El-Omda, has argued that the process is an offense to the Sharia and that is a poorly hidden attempt to Westernize Egypt.
— According to media reports, Islamist parties are also preparing a draft law for early marriage that would permit girls to get married at the age of 14 instead of 18. As reported by Ahram Online, in the past few months, Salafist MPs have argued that there should be no minimum age for marriage for either sex, explaining that in the Sharia Law, an age for marriage is not specified.
Women activists are trying to campaign against this draft. “A license to drive, and to even vote, requires you to be 18 years old or older. Are those things more important than being a parent and forming a family?” said Azza Soliman, a legal assistant at the Centre for Egyptian Women. As reported by Ahram Online, she added she believes it is wrong to set the age of marriage below 18, or even “12, as some imply.”
— A controversial statement was instead made by Azza El Garf, a woman and a parliamentarian belonging to the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the ruling Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood ruling . Al-Garf clearly points out that she disagrees with the Egypt’s 2008 ban on genital mutilation, to which she referred as a barbaric practice as beautification plastic surgery.
– Egyptian media recently reported about a draft law that would allow a husband to have sex with his dead wife within six hours after her death. Members of the Egyptian parliament said that the draft does not exist and that it was a story made up by the media. However, as reported by Al-Arabiya, the “Farewell Intercourse” is not a new proposal. Last year, a Moroccan cleric, Zamzami Abdul Bari, was the first to state that a husband could have sex with his dead wife. The Moroccan cleric argued that marriage remains valid even after death adding, perhaps implausibly, that a woman can also engage in sex with her dead husband.
— Ahram Online also reports that Islamists have called for cancelling the implementation of CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly; they alleged that “it contains articles that contradict Islamic Sharia.”
Egypt’s National Council for Women is campaigning against the above mentioned Islamist initiatives that are targeting women rights, saying that “marginalizing and undermining the status of women would negatively affect the country’s human development.”
Amal Al-Malki, a Qatari author, has been arguing on Arabic Al-Jazeera that the Arab Spring has so far failed women in their struggle for equality: “We have no voice. We have no visibility… And I am telling you, this is why women’s rights should be codified; they should not be held hostage in the hands of political leaders who can change in a second, right? Governments should be held responsible for treating men and women equally.”
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