• Women
  • February 2, 2010
  • 6 minutes read

Egyptian government, NGOs duke it out in Geneva over women’s rights

Egyptian government, NGOs duke it out in Geneva over women’s rights

CAIRO: The Egyptian Government, represented by the National Council for Women, in Geneva last Friday, was confronted by 30 Egyptian NGOs when each of those organizations presented their reports on the status of women in Egypt to the Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Farhkanda Hassan of the National Council of Women presented the government’s report, while Seham Negm presented the reports submitted by Egyptian NGOs.

The official government report said the Egyptian government is working extensively to remove any form of discrimination against women through its legislations. However, the shadow reports of the Egyptian Civil Society – an umbrella organization that brings together the 30 NGOs – argued that women in Egypt are still suffering from many negative situations and discrimination in laws.

The Egyptian government`s report stated that the legislative committee of the National Council for Women reviews all “laws, legislation and ministerial decisions to purge them of any suspicion of discrimination against women and is working to amend the provisions of the ministerial laws in the Penal Code that constitute discrimination against women,” pointing out that some articles of the Code, in addition to the values and negative customs, “is one of the most important challenges facing the Council.”

The report said the National Council for Women is making efforts to “combat the negative cultural heritage against women, but faced the absence of a supportive cultural structure for women.” The report stressed that there is no distinction between women and men, with regard to education, but of some approaches that have been “purified, but still negative,” according to the report.

The government report argued that there has been significant progress in the conditions of Egyptian women, while acknowledging some negatives do persist “that are being dealt with.” It pointed out that the government has taken all measures to prevent discrimination, but added that “the democratic space given has opened the door to radical currents of anti-women sentiments.”

On the other hand, the shadow report said that there are many problems that women face at all levels, including the implementation of legislation. It did, however, acknowledge that recent years have seen progress in the situation of women’s rights, including the allocation of 64 seats in the People’s Assembly and the passing of the Family Courts Act, and the elimination of discrimination against women in the field of citizenship in granting the Egyptian nationality for sons and daughters of Egyptian mothers as well as a law criminalizing female genital mutilation.

The report pointed out that despite the adoption of those laws, however, women are still suffering from “serious discrimination in the laws, in addition to the discrimination they suffer in reality.” The report cited divorce, which is still the prerogative of men as a blatant example.

The shadow report criticized the total separation between men and women in the crimes of treason, pointing out that the law for women sentences them two-years in prison, compared to only 6 months for men.

The report said the most dangerous articles provide for changes in laws and regulations that are inconsistent with CEDAW.

At the level of de facto discrimination on the ground, the shadow report said that all domestic and international statistics confirm that the illiteracy of women is larger and health services are provided less to women. According to the shadow report, a woman’s income is not equal to that of a man.

The report pointed to the growth in the trafficking of women, confirming that the sale of young girls for older, wealthy men still exists “under the guise of marriage in the season of summer,” With regard to the political work, it considered that the political climate is to “constrain women’s political work,” pointing out that although the allocation of seats for women, “those seats were additional and not as a percentage of the basic, which suggests that the basic seats are for men only.”

The report complained of the fundamentalist tide facing women and acts of hooliganism, “which hinder women’s political participation.” It added that the great imbalance with regard to family and personal status law, in which the report said that “sometimes this law is subject to the influence of the religious trend,” pointing out that “the Personal Status Law is unfair.”

The report said that the Egyptian judicial system is proceeding according to the teachings of Islamic law to settle the conditions of the family, “which has caused many legal problems since judges issue different jurisprudence and contradictory rulings in some cases.” The report demanded that the government pass a new common law that “avoids the shortcomings of the current law.”

With regard to violence against women, the report said that “despite the absence of the term honor crimes in the Egyptian law, the killing of women for crimes related to honor gets sympathy in the courts and some verdicts are eased against perpetrators, despite being a murderer.”

The report criticized the lack of provisions in the law for criminalizing domestic violence, and recognizes marital rape, “and the absence of clear articles that criminalize harassment in the workplace.”

The report called for the need to take into account these criticisms and attention must be given to the situation of rural women in particular. It called on the National Council of Women and the Egyptian government to amend the Personal Status Law as a prerequisite for improving the lives of women living in Egypt.