EGYPT: Protests Against Egyptian Constitution Draft Connecting Women's Rights to Sharia Law

Thursday, October 11, 2012
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The draft proposal of a new constitution for Egypt, has caused fiery protests from civil society and women's organizations in the country. Last week several hundred people demonstrated in Cairo against the absence of women in the process and against the new Article 36, stating that women's equal rights should be ensured ”without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence”.
Political and human rights activists in Egypt worry that the proposed wordings in the constitution will curtail women's rights, since they open for different interpretations by Islamic scholars, reports the Egypt Independent.

The proposed Article 36 reads:
”The state is committed to taking all constitutional and executive measures to ensure equality of women with men in all walks of political, cultural, economic and social life, without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence. The state will provide all necessary services for mothers and children for free, and will ensure the protection of women, along with social, economic and medical care and the right to inheritance, and will ensure a balance between the woman's family responsibilities and work in society.”

Besides the connection to islamic Sharia law, activists also protest against the recent exclusion of former proposed writings, like setting a minimum age for a woman to be able to marry and banning trafficking.

Alternative constitution

Several demonstrations were held in the capital last week. On Wednesday representatives from civil society organizations, activists and politicians announced at a press conference that they will be drafting an alternative constitution.
- A constitution containing the phrase ‘not to be contrary to Sharia' and a constitution that limits the rights of certain groups, such as Copts and women, will not be allowed, said Hussein Abdel Ghani from Popular Current, one of the organizations in the group, writes the Egypt Independent.

Women's movement demanding equal rights

On Thursday women's organizations organized a demonstration outside the Presidential Palace and handed over a statement in which they called for an equal dividing of seats between women and men in the Constituent Assembly, and for the new constitution to ensure women's equal rights as citizens of Egypt.

Currently only seven of the Constituent Committée's 100 members are women. The comittée's constitutionality has been questioned and is currently being examined by a court.

The statement made by the Egyptian women's movement

On women's rights in the Constitution:
  • First, women's rights are part of the citizenship's rights.
  • Women gained their rights through historical struggling and they contributed to the 25 Jan revolution where they were scarred and died, just like the men.
  • The constitution identifies the rights and the duties of all Egyptians (male and female ) so all should share in formulating it.
  • Women have been marginalized in the mechanisms for achieving the objectives of the revolution, starting with the poor representation in the parliament and the Consultative Council, and ending with the founding of the constitution committee.
  • There are many women who are in leading positions and teaching law and constitution at the universities.

Taking all of the above into consideration, and for a Constitution for all Egyptians, the Egyptian women's movement, which is formed by people from all of Egyptian society and represented by the signatories (she/he) to this document, is demanding:

Considering the current Constituent Committée lost its legitimacy, since it is under consideration of the judiciary:

Restruction of the committee to represent all of the Egyptian people with membership divided equally between women and men. Adoption of objective and transparent criteria for membership, taking into account the names nominated by different spectra of society.

The articles of the constitution should:

  • Reflect the equality between all Egyptians
  • Confirm the international treaties, like the Elimination on all Forms of discrimination against Women
  • Guarantee the full equality of women and men within each of the following rights: education, employment, health care, health and social insurance, housing, unemployment benefit, and the right of a healthy environment
  • Make sure that the State and the political institutions empower of women in their political representation, in order to achieve a fair representation of women reflect their percentage in society
  • Put proper control on the election law and process
  • Confirm the equality between men and women regarding responsibilities within the framework of the family .
  • Include articles to protect children's rights, the environment, the rights of persons with special needs, and the rights of the elderly.