With a new year starting on Tuesday accompanied by fresh hopes, regarding women’s rights around the world in general but in Egypt specifically, we could not consider the hopes and demands for new year before determining where Egyptian women stand.
Thus, Daily News Egypt presents in this report the most important events which took place throughout the year related to women’s rights chronologically (distributing the year into quarters).
Following the most prominent events this year, it was found that it was a stalemate year, especially in terms of laws, but at the same time it witnessed a remarkable movement and resistance against sexual harassment.
January, golden month for Egyptian women
By going back to the first quarter (Q1) of 2018, it was noticed that January was the golden month for Egyptian women as it witnessed two major achievements.
On 1 January, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi approved the amendments to the Inheritance Law No 77 for the year 1943, imposing strict sanctions on those who disinherit members of a family, particularly women, from receiving their rightful shares. This law is the first to protect women’s rights to their inheritance.
On 5 December, the Egyptian Parliament finally approved the amendments submitted by the government to Inheritance Law No 77 for the year 1943. Under these amendments, punishment of at least three years in prison and a fine ranging between EGP 20,000 to 100,000 (around $1,119-$5,595) will be imposed on those who violate this Law.
To those who withhold a document proving a person’s legal right to an inheritance or refrain from handing over this document, they shall be sentenced to six months in prison and will be fined at least EGP 20,000. If the violation is repeated, the perpetrator will be sentenced to at least one year in jail.
As mentioned before, January was women’s golden month throughout 2018, thus on 14 January, Egypt witnessed for the first time in its history a cabinet reshuffle by former prime minister Sherif Ismail, with six female ministers occupying seats in the cabinet, representing nearly 20% of the cabinet, after choosing Inas Abdel-Dayem as the new minister of culture over Helmy el-Namnam and Rania al-Mashat that has replaced minister of tourism yahia Rashid.
In addition to having four women continuing in their seats in the cabinet, including Ghada Wali, minister of solidarity, Sahar Nasr, minister of investment and international cooperation, Nabila Makram, minister of immigration, and Hala Al- Saeed, minister of planning.
Q2 of 2018
In April, Egypt’s parliament approved a law regulating the National Council for Women (NCW), bringing it in line with the 2014 constitution and international conventions signed by Egypt.
Among the most prominent provisos stipulated in the law of organising the work of the NCW, is that the council is independent, follows the president and enjoys legal constitution, and enjoys technical, financial and administrative independence in the exercise of its functions, activities, and competences.
The law also defined the general objective of the NCW which are protect and promote women’s rights and freedoms, in addition to being responsible for ensuring that Egyptian women are treated on an equal footing with men in terms of political, economic, social, and cultural rights.
Moving to June, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi swore in a new government, two weeks after being re-elected in a vote, and the new cabinet came with great news for Egyptian women, as it witnessed for the first time in Egypt`s history the presence of eight female ministries.
The newly appointed female ministers are Hala Zayed for the health ministry succeeding Ahmed Emad el-Din, and Yasmine Fouad as minister of environment, succeeding Khaled Fahmy. They two newly appointed ministers, in addition to six female ministers who occupied seats in the outgoing cabinet, represent nearly 25% of the cabinet.
Sexual harassment is the most commonly used term in Q3 of 2018
Egypt appointed a Christian women for the first time as a governor, as Damietta’s governor.
Also, the Supreme Judicial Council approved the appointment of Hassna’a Shaaban Abdullah, the former vice-president of the Court of Appeals, as the head of the economic court in Tanta, thus becoming the first female judge to preside over a court in Egypt.
Noteworthy, on a daily basis, Egyptian women and girls are face diverse forms of sexual of violence in the streets of Egypt, public and private places, transportation and workplaces. It could be verbal or physical harassment, and sometimes it escalates even to rape. What’s more, women are usually blamed by society for being subjected to such behaviour. They are accused of ‘provoking’ men either by their outfits or via their comportment.
Meanwhile, August was the month of talking about sexual harassment either in the workplace or outside it.
On 14 August, an Egyptian woman published a video which she filmed, while she was standing in the street, as a man passing by stopped and “offered her a coffee.” She wrote “is this really happening in the Fifth Settlement district!”
The video rapidly went viral on Facebook, receiving thousands of comments and shares. Some people attacked her for posting the video and documenting the event, accusing her of attracting attention over a “situation not worth this hassle,” while others, mostly women, were supportive of her move.
The same woman published another video featuring another man at the same spot. The video showed this second man sitting in his car and saying, “Come in and ride with us.” He left his car and stood in front of her and when he realised he was being filmed, he left. The woman has not been filmed in both videos she posted on her Facebook account.
The first man who was featured in the viral video has received huge support from his peers. He published a video to explain what happened from his point of view. “I believe I did not commit a mistake,” he said, adding, “When she (the woman who accused him of harassment) refused (my request) I offered my apologies and left. I did not bother her, nor did I do something inappropriate.”
He moved on to say, “I asked her for a coffee because she was standing in the street and I didn’t want anyone to bother her,” he added, “(her appearance) was really provocative. Therefore, I offered my request.”
Moreover, he believes that the situation “grabbed more attention than it really deserved. I don’t think my behaviour in this situation could be considered as harassment.”
What was new in that incident, as in any incident there are two opinions, one supports the woman while the other accuses her due to her outfit, but surprisingly this incident generated another point of view which was that this was only filtration.
In the end of August, in view of this incident and many other sexual incidents, Al-Azhar announced that sexual harassment in any form was deviant behaviour and rejected any attempt to blame the way some women dress or behave.
Al-Azhar asserts that criminalising harassment and those who commit harassment must be absolute and without any condition or context.
Al-Azhar’s statement rejected any attempt to blame women for sexual harassment, saying abuse “violates women’s privacy, freedom and human dignity”.
Al-Azhar demanded the activation of all laws that punish sexual abuse and called for efforts to raise social awareness.
At the beginning of September, a journalist at privately-owned Youm 7 newspaper, called Mai Elshamy, who had filled a lawsuit to the prosecution accusing the executive editor, Dandrawy Elhawary, of physically and verbally harassing her inside the newsroom.
Throughout that period, several social media users and public figures, as well as feminist organisations demonstrated solidarity and support towards Elshamy’s case.
Meanwhile, journalists in the press displayed their solidarity with Elhawary, claiming that the incident is fabricated to undermine his reputation.
The Dokki prosecutor decided last November to shelved the case against Elhawary as an administrative one and also issued a decision rejecting the complaint and confirming it is administratively discontinued.
Q4 of 2018
In November, MP Nadia Henry, a member of the economic committee in the parliament, announced the adoption of the Unified Violence against Women Bill.
Notably, it was launched by human rights and feminist organisations in November 2007 under the name of the ‘Taskforce for a Unified Act against Violence Against women’ and it contains 53 articles divided into seven sections.
The parliament referred the draft consolidated law against all forms of violence against women to a joint commission of constitutional and legislative affairs, defence, national security, and social solidarity and up till now it is still under implementation.
Noticeably, the unified law against all forms of violence against women was expected to be issued last year, according to the President of the NCW in January 2017.
In November, Minister of Finance, Mohamed Moeit established Yomna Akram Khattab as assistant minister of finance for fiscal policy and Mai Farid as assistant minister of finance for economic justice,
Eminently, Khattab was previously a senior economist and deputy director of the macro-fiscal policy division at the ministry, while Farid was the executive director of the ministry’s economic justice division.
Finally, a year has passed in which women accomplished a great deal, yet challenges still remain, anticipating the new year to deal with them.