Egyptian women struggle with constitutional freedom

By Konye Obaji Ori

Posted on April 8, 2014 13:30

Egyptian women have demanded rights, which were guaranteed during the writing of the new constitution, to be enforced and defended, as the country emerges from conflict.

Equality between sexes is clearly enshrined in the new constitution and women have demanded that they be granted equal opportunities to education, work and political office.

The new charter criminalises violence against women and discrimination on any basis, including gender.

It also forces Egypt’s government to be accountable to its international obligations under treaties it has ratified, including the UN Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

However, there are growing fears that the new found rights are neither being implemented nor defended.

Violence against women in public spaces has grown over the past three years.

And a law criminalising sexual harassment against women sent to the presidency for review has yet to be passed.

Calls for implementing women’s rights have been further silenced in a political climate, where criticism is not tolerated, unlicensed protesters are jailed, and critics of the government are muffled.

Since violence broke out following the military ousting Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, violence against women has been seen as a common weapon.

Protesters and security forces have killed more than 100 women.

Additionally, democratic reforms that would ensure the implementation of women’s rights have since been stifled.

Dalia Abdel-Hameed, gender rights researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, an independent rights group, noted that women participating in public life are often intimidated with violence.

Evidence that the government could renege on women rights guaranteed in the constitution abound.

While women have only been allowed to be judges in Egypt since 2007, a 2010 court decision barred women judges from the State Council.

Under the interim military backed government, there is a low representation of women.

In the last parliament, Egyptian women held only two per cent of the seats in the last assembly, the lowest in the Arab world.

Egyptian women are yet to see the promise to be a part of the political process, and decision-making opportunities in negotiating the future of the North African nation.

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