EGYPT: Women's Rights in Egypt Deteriorate in 2010, Says Report

Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The Daily News Egypt
Northern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

The issue of women's rights was used as a political tool by the government and other entities in 2010, according to an annual report by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR).

The report, which is based on the findings of international human rights organizations, stated that Egypt was ranked 125th out of 134 countries regarding women's rights, and was ranked 13th among countries in the Middle East/North Africa region.

“The regional ranking is especially saddening,” said Nehad Abu El Komsan, ECWR chair of the board. “Palestine — which is under occupation — preceded Egypt in the women's rights ranking.”

The state council's refusal to appoint female judges in February was considered by the ECWR as a major setback to women's rights in 2010.

The ECWR also stated that the women's quota system, which reserved 64 parliamentary seats for female candidates, is a temporary solution that is not sufficient to integrate women into the political sphere.

“The women [candidates] were used to decorate the parliament,” said Abu El Komsan. “It is not an issue of development; it is only a political tool.”

Due to the disappearance of two women for allegedly converting to Islam, the ECWR report stated that women were also used to fuel sectarian tension in 2010.

The report deemed the representation of women in political parties to be weak, as was demonstrated by the nomination of women on the final candidate lists of only three parties out of the 24 that participated in the Shura Council elections.

However, the report added that some women successfully emerged as leaders in a few political parties — the most notable of which was Asmahan Shoukry, who was named the Labor Party's first female president.

According to the report, the percentage of women in ministries, the Shura Council and local councils is still under three percent.

“The appointment of women in any position for the first time is considered a political gift and a sign of social tolerance rather than [an advancement in] the civil rights of women,” the report stated.

Regarding economic equality, the report stated that women's unemployment rates have decreased since 2004; however, Egypt is still below the average in international rankings regarding an equal access to resources.

According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the school curriculums in Egypt reaffirm the stereotypical view that women are consuming beings that are only suitable for domestic roles.

Women still suffer from inequality in the workplace according to the ECWR report, which stated that women still receive lower wages than men, are deprived of promotion opportunities, and are treated as temporary labor because of their domestic responsibilities.

The report also stated that there's been a rise in violence against women. A study by the ECWR shows that 71.4 percent of violent crimes in 2010 were against women.

According to a study by several NGOs, rape incidents have been rising in Egypt, with 27 incidents reported daily. Another study also found that 95 percent of rape cases go unreported.

Numerous legal and security attempts were made to fight sexual harassment, according to the report, in addition to the production of the first Egyptian movie to ever directly tackle the issue.

Abu El Komsan said that the problems women face regarding domestic violence, which affects 33 percent of women, are increased by society's reluctance to interfere in domestic affairs.

“The family is still treated … as a closed environment [in Egypt],” said Abu El Komsan. “No one is allowed to interfere in [familial] affairs.”

The ECWR also highlighted the increased use of two new alarming police practices against women: the practice of holding women hostage in order to force fugitives to surrender themselves to the police, as well as the sexual violation of women by police officers.

On the other hand, the report applauded the role that civil society has played in promoting women's issues in 2010. The ECWR stated that civil organizations worked to politically empower women and have challenged the stereotypical view of women held by society.

According to the ECWR report, the media also had a positive role in bringing women's issues to the public's attention while condemning any violations of women's civil rights whenever they occurred.

However, the ECWR report condemned various media outlets' use of condescending terms when reporting on the women's quota system, as many of the terms made light of female political participation.

The ECWR report also issued recommendations to enhance women's rights through the passage of legislation that protects women, the integration of women into the political sphere, and the use of art to promote gender equality.