What Women Want in New Egypt

Over the past weeks we have seen mass protests by people across all segments of society calling for political change and reform, in hope that this change would reflect on economical and social issues in the future. As the days progressed we saw workers striking and protesting for their rights, journalists protesting for free and honest media, artists and film makers against censorship, people with disabilities protesting for an inclusive society and infrastructure, and many others according to their fields or backgrounds. Women are 50% of the society, and they face marginalization, unfairness politically, socially and under Egyptian law. It’s about time we do something about it. Dr. Nawal El Saadawi, long time acivist psychologist and especially concerned with women’s rights said “The cause to libirate women [in Egypt] who are half the population, is not separated from liberating the nation” .

That is why next Tuesday, to celebrate the International Day for Women, everyone in Egypt who believes women should be equal members of society on every level, need to take the streets. A group of women’s rights activists are organising a “Million Women March” in Tahrir at 3 pm.

My favourite slogan from the event on Facebook is: “I have a mother and father, I want a female or male president”.

In Egypt, no one can deny that women are not treated equally in society. That includes on a legal, political and most importantly cultural level. Here is a few main issues women face, not all issues I might add, that I would like to highlight that should be worked on in the new Egypt.

Politically:

  • We were left out in the constitutional revision committee
  • The clause on the Egyptian president’s origin assumes that the Egyptian president needs to be a man
  • Women’s quota is not helping women find seats but rather limiting them
  • Women always have minimal representation in the cabinet

Socially/Culturally:

  • A large percentage of women suffer domestic violence and never report it
  • Female Genital Mutilation is practices heavily in Egypt even though it is no longer legal
  • 85% of Egyptian women suffer sexual harassment in big cities
  • A woman’s role in society is often confined to being a wife and mother

Legally:

  • Sharia law discriminates against women in both inheritance and divorce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tunisia might have started this wave of revolutions in the Arab world, but we took it to the next level as a global movement. Our country has a responsibility now, towards the Arab world, and the whole world, to show that revolutions can succeed and bring about real change, and active participation of all members of society. Gender is a factor. We need to be the model on how women are just as important to men on all levels of society, as we’ve seen, the snowball effect in the region is unreal.

So join the movement on Tuesday, which is a continuation of the revolution that called for social justice and real change. Not just on a political level, but a cultural one as well. It not only aims to call on the government to take concrete actions, but on our collective society to change their perspective on a woman’s role in society. It’s not a march by women, it is for women, by women and men.

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10 Responses to What Women Want in New Egypt

  1. I agree with everything about women in Egypt, as a Muslim women must be treated equally with men. As an Egyptian I also feel women have been mistreated for too long. BUT i do not agree with your perception of Sharia Law. The laws sent from Allah through the Quran does not discriminate against women. That’s the truth, perhaps you’ve been reading the Sharia law of extremist groups but in true Islam women have all types of rights including Divorce rights and rights for employment in the highest order. Please, don’t but garbage on Sharia law, instead try to demonstrate that even Sharia law gives the rights all women in Egypt have the right to have. Thank you

    • rouelshimi says:

      Hi Wassim, thanks for your taking the time to comment on the blog post. I knew this part about Sharia would spark a debate :)
      I believe law, politics and religion need to be completely separate. That is to ensure equality of people of a nation, not only in terms of gender, but also more importantly different religious beliefs.
      When Sharia law is applied in Egypt, women who want to divorce end up with two options if they wish to divorce: either the husband divorces her (not her divorce him if she wishes) and the most recently introduces “Khol3” which gives a woman an option out (only if a judge will agree with her case) and it gives her no rights that come with divorce except child support in case she is with a child. For this example, and for the case of equality I believe Sharia is not a law you can apply to an entire country that includes all kinds of religious backgrounds. Egypt, in my opinion, should be a civil secular country, where everyone is free to practice religion in any way they see fit, and laws are civil, that apply to everyone.
      All the best, and thanks for the comment!
      Rowan

      • Nancy E. says:

        I think you made some FUNDAMENTAL mistakes in your argument, with regards to Sharia Law.

        First of all, and most important, Sharia family law (divorce and inheritance for the most part) is NOT applied on Christians! Not only is that not a part of the Egyptian legal system, it is not Islamically correct.

        Second, the “khol3” law is NOT Sharia. According to Islam, women ALWAYS had the right to divorce. The secular Egyptian legal system prevented women from initiating divorce until VERY recently when the ‘khol3’ law was adopted. They were actually far behind the Islamic legal system. What they do with Khol3 is not what the Sharia prescribes. So I wouldn’t put that into the category of Sharia to begin with.

        Finally, we have to remember that both Christians and Muslims have their own religious family laws, which are implemented according to personal preference for the most part. Religious inspired laws are a part of both religions, so how can we say that they can’t be practiced? Many Copts are not even able to get divorced according to their religious laws, yet you pick on the details of the Sharia law when it comes to divorce. I don’t think that’s quite fair.

        No where in this world is there a system that has applied Sharia Law, as it should be applied. It’s an unfortunate reality, but we must remember to differentiate between made up laws that are so called ‘Sharia’ and the real Sharia Law ordained by God.

  2. Clyde Ford says:

    Very well said. As the father of three lovely and intelligent daughters, I want them to live in a world where all women are treated as equals.

  3. Sarah says:

    I agreed up until the shariah law part. Your response states shariah law in egypt does not give women rights in divorce.
    There is no shariah law in egypt or outside egypt. Its one shariah law which is not upheld anywhere in the world now whenit comes to women.
    Shariah law when upheld correctly stipulates that if one party decides to leave the other be it male or female, then they have to give the other party back their belongings. However, in shariah law if a man divorces his wife with children, he MUST give them living expenses as well as ensure they live in the same standard they were living in before the divorce. If a woman asks for a divorce she must get it because in the Quran Allah says, do not keep them just to transgress…in other words do not keep them just out of spite and against their will. The prophet pbuh ordered a woman who asked for a divorce simply to return the gifts he gave her.
    That is shariah. If it is upheld truly not by the understanding of men alone but as it was sent down to us it will give us our rights and more!

  4. rouelshimi says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    A Few very interesting points were raised. But we disagree on something very fundamental:
    – I know Sharia law is not applied on Christians, that is not what I was implying. I do not think Sharia law should be applied on anyone. Simply because splitting the legal system into Muslims and Christians means you are automatically excluding anyone who is not a Muslim or Christian. It means you have a label on your National ID saying if you are Muslim or Christian, to be able to go through legal procedure according to religion. This is what I am against. I believe all laws should be civil, that way they can be fair across not only genders, but more importantly religion.

    To me, I’ve seen Sharia law being applied in the wrong contexts in Egypt and outside. And mostly towards women. I believe the Sharia law was very fair and applicable in a certain society when it came out, but if Egypt is to move to a democratic civil society where men and women both are equal parts of the work force, then it doesn’t work. Because the law assumes that the man works and the woman doesn’t, and bases divorce, and mostly inheritance, on that.

    I think everyone should choose whatever role they want to see themselves in the society, and it should not be assumed by having a religion on your national ID or an assumption in family law.

    All the best, and I hope to see you all in the march today!

  5. Pingback: Why should we march? « Pathways Middle East Hub

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  7. Nancy E. says:

    I think it’s quite unrealistic to want to exclude Sharia FAMILY LAW from Egypt altogether. That simply would not be acceptable to a huge segment of society. And what about the Christian family laws? If we were to outlaw Islam’s, then we would have to outlaw any religious legal orders that are carried out by the church as well. Do you really believe that would be feasible?

    If we want a democratic country, we must decide on laws accordingly – majority rules. I can’t say for a fact that the majority would want this – but I highly doubt it won’t, by both Muslims and Christians. It simply wouldn’t be fair to say that Muslims and Christians can’t follow their own religion, especially when it comes to something so intimate such as family law. We live in a conservative and fairly religious society, and that part of our culture can’t be ignored. Our culture has to be integrated in the system. Just as is any culture integrated in any political/legal system – including many liberal democratic countries.

    A civil and liberal society does NOT necessarily mean complete exclusion of religiously inspired principles from law – for example, the American constitution is based on them! Just are certain legal principles derived from Sharia, there are legal principles derived from other ideologies, such as liberalism. We must not forget that these are all ideologies at the end of the day.

    About inheritance in Sharia. The reason it’s divided the way it is has nothing to do with the idea that a man works and the woman does not. It is actually because men are supposed to be the SOLE providers of the family, whether the woman works or not – a woman’s money is her own, not the family’s. This tradition is still very much intact among a great deal of Egyptians. Although more and more women are helping out financially, it’s very unlikely that you would find them to be the sole providers. The tradition of men buying the apartment, car, paying for the wedding, etc is also taken into consideration nowadays when it comes to inheritance (of course this is not Islamic, it is cultural).

    Anyway, I just wanted to clarify that. In the end many families end up giving their children what they please, according to their situation. People know that we are getting less traditional, and so are dividing inheritance based on that fact. It’s not binding.

    By the way, I think your argument is valid, and I appreciate it. I just think if we don’t take Egypt’s culture into consideration, we’ll end up creating a state and legal system that is at total odds with the people and their belief system. No country can take a completely foreign idea and sell it to its people. And just so you don’t misunderstand me, I’m not taking about a liberal democratic system in general – I’m just saying a liberal democratic system is generally flexible, and can at the same time satisfy the needs of its people culturally and socially.

  8. hina says:

    great one

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