The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
International Women's Day
Before beginning a new century
8 March 1999On Women's Day, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) expresses deep concern about the continuation of an environment that disregards women's rights stipulated in the Constitution and international human rights instruments ratified by the Egyptian Government. Although human rights violations affect both women and men, women in Egypt are still the victims of systematic violations on the basis of gender. Every year Women's Day comes and Egyptian women remain in the same legal, social and cultural fetters which make her status as a citizen incomplete and often violate their dignity. On the legal level, the EOHR sees with deep concern the continuation in the legal framework of many provisions that are discriminatory against women. A clear example of this may is the family law, which still downgrades women with respect to marriage and divorce. Also, the EOHR considers the Nationality Law 26/1975 as a flagrant case of discrimination against women. This law hampers the right of Egyptian women married to foreign men to pass their Egyptian nationality to their children. While the law gives Egyptian men married to foreign women such right, in the case of Egyptian women married to foreign men this right hinges on the decision of the Minister of Interior. Likewise, the Penal Code, issued in 1937, also contains provisions discriminatory against women's dignity and is biased towards men. The Code widens the criminal responsibility of women for the crime of adultery and stipulates stiffer punishments for them, while it deals with men in a very different manner. The justification given for this is that in such cases, 'the husband is extremely provoked', as if being extremely provoked can happen to men only. On the economic and social levels, the EOHR sees that the negative impacts of the new economic policies, while affecting all vulnerable groups of society, have a double effect on women and children. This situation is aggravated by the new legal provisions concerning labour, which neglect the rights of workers in general, and of working women in particular. For instance, the new Unified Labour Law constitutes a step back for Egyptian working women with respect to rights previously enjoyed by them in matters such as pregnancy leave. Also, the EOHR is seriously concerned about the escalation of domestic and social violence, as women are the main victims of this type of violence. On the cultural level, the EOHR is disturbed by the unfavorable treatment given to women, which may be seen clearly in two current areas of discussion. First, on the much debated issue of the right of women to be appointed judges, the organization is puzzled that such a debate occurs now, nearing the beginning of a new century. The EOHR would like to stress that the refusal of the right of women to enter the judiciary has no constitutional or legal basis but is rooted in tradition, which is in turn based on a culture of discrimination and therefore becomes more powerful than the law and the Constitution. The second issue currently under discussion is the right of girls and young women victims of rape to have their virginity restored through a surgical procedure. The EOHR considers that this debate reflects a mentality that devalues women's dignity and deals with women as the holders of the family's honour. However, such mentality overlooks the fact that a surgical procedure can never give back to a woman her violated dignity. The EOHR takes the celebration of Women's Day as an opportunity to reaffirm the need to respect human rights and dignity, and to achieve equality between men and women. It therefore urges the Egyptian authorities to stop all forms of discrimination against women. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to amend the legal framework in accordance with the Constitution and the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In this respect, the EOHR calls on the Egyptian Government to ratify article 9, paragraph two of this Convention, which states that"States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children." Also, the EOHR calls on Egyptian civil society to unite in defence of human rights in general, and of women's rights in particular, and to support and empower all women organizations and those that work in the field of women's rights. Finally, the EOHR calls on all defenders of women's rights and all social forces, governmental and non-governmental, to promote women's political participation, as membership of women in the current parliament does not exceed two per cent.
Other EOHR Press Releases
EOHR || Human Rights in Egypt