In collaboration with the UN Women, ECWR held a roundtable event on the 2nd of December, 2012 at the Pyramisa Hotel entitled “Women’s Situation in the New Constitution … Rights Not Promises.” 97 participants attended the roundtable, with different affiliations from the following organizations:
First: Representatives of Political Parties:
The Socialist Party, the Liberal Egyptians, the Liberals, the Party of the Constitution, the Union Party, the Labour Party, the Nasserist Party, the Egyptian Democratic Party, the National Accord Party, the Reform & Development Party, the Sound of Egypt Party, El-Tagamoa Party, the Dignity Party, and El-Wafd Party
Second: Representatives of Movements:
The Union of Progressive Women
Third: Labour Unions:
The Youth Labour Union, The Union of Egypt’s Workers
Fourth: Political Movements:
The Coalition of Revolutionary Youth Movement
Fifth: Specialized National Centers:
The National Center for Researching
Sixth: Civil Society Organizations:
Youth Love Egypt, Friends of the Special Education Association, Transparency Center for Development Training, The Medical Women’s Association, the Islam Lighthouse Association, the Justice Association, Nahdet Misr Association, Law Firm Intellectual System, the Association of the Right Vision, the Regional Organization for Human Rights, The Arab Organization for Protecting the Intellectual Owner Rights “International and Arab Organization” , the Egyptian Association for Scientific & Technology Development, the Egyptian Council for Human Rights, Women’s Association Activity. In addition, a strong representation of lawyers and media professionals attended the event.
The participants emphasized the following concerns related to the current draft of the constitution:
The current draft does not represent Egyptian women in any way; they are severely neglected and their rights as citizens are ambiguously articulated in articles of the draft. This is important to address, as women should have equal standing in Egyptian society, and sacrificed a great deal for the sake of the Revolution.
All the results of listening sessions were held with women’s representatives, and all the demands of the women’s movement were ignored. Countless suggestions of articles were made to 1) guarantee women’s rights, 2) deal with the cultural and historical distortions that contribute to the discrimination against women, and 3) criminalize the discrimination and violence against women.
The draft of constitution objectifies women as a device for the breeding of children, as the first role of women in society is explicitly viewed being within the home. Rights of women in the public sphere are explicitly ignored. Women are not mentioned in the constitution except in Article No 10, which states that “the family is the basis of the society; its principles are ethical, moral, and national (public order). The State and society shall commit to preserving the true nature of the Egyptian family, its cohesion and stability and establish the moral values and protect them through the law….. the State ensures motherhood, as childhood services are for free, reconciling the duties of women towards her family and her work… the State cares about and protects the household, as well as divorced and widowed women.”
There are some articles in the draft of the constitution that have been developed with a philosophy of mentioning the right and taking it by force; that is the same philosophy of the 1971 constitution. While the rights are stated and the application is referred to in a legal text, ambiguous, general, and elastic words fail to develop the application of criteria for them.
This article is a call for returning women to the home and opens the door for organizations that pretend they care about the nature of society, yet in reality solely focus on women within the household, the private sphere. The draft constitution does not provide articles that provide equality of opportunity for women, as Egyptian citizens, outside the household in the public sphere. Egyptian women are not explicitly recognized as citizens or partners in the decision-making process in Egyptian society. Their rights outside the household are not written in any subsequent articles. The articles of equality among citizens were violated in this article, providing a fake sense of equality.
This article has a defective transfer and reproduction of Articles No 8, 9, 10, and 11 of the 1971 constitution. With these articles, women suffered from discrimination and marginalization for more than 40 years. Regarding work opportunities, there are 14 types of work forbidden to women under the false pretense of “protection,” these fields include mining, glass, mercury and tanning industries, and so on, to name a few. Although in reality women are employed in these fields, they are deprived of laws that ensure their rights as female workers. Therefore, they are exploited through working for long hours with low wages, because they are a far cry from legal and constitutional protections.
This defective article in the draft of the constitution could be a threat to the safety and freedom of Egyptian women, and the safety of the rest of Egyptian society. It opens the door for the establishment of “morality police,” such as the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
The draft of the constitution did not violate women’s rights only, but went so far as to neglect the rights of children. Whereas Article No 57 addresses the right of education, this article identified only the commitment of the state towards the education of children in the compulsory period, which means until the age of 14 years. The state is not responsible for education after that. This article is in complete contradiction to international commitments and protocols, which Egypt is a signatory and member. Such commitments stipulate that children must be educated until the legal age of adulthood, which is 18 years of age. Thus, in accordance with the draft constitution, children lose four years of education.
The participants stressed severe gaps in the constitution, starting from the formation of the constituent assembly of the constitution, which in fact violated law. Participants emphasized the negligent attitude of the assembly’s members towards women, and the severe absence of articles related to the economic, social, and cultural rights of various ethnicities, religions, and peoples of Egypt.
The participants concluded that the status quo is an abuse of rights and of the law. The presidential decree of President Mohammad Morsi infringed on the basic legal institutions of Egypt. It is strongly believe that the President intentionally furthered divisions within Egypt, for the sake of future power grabs. The participants demanded the necessity of invalidating the current constitution, and forming a proper committee to write a constitution that respects women’s rights and human rights; a constitution that does not discriminate among citizens and ensures all rights of Egypt’s diverse citizens and population. The participants warn of claiming a boycott to the referendum on the constitution. They also emphasized that every citizen should use their right to freedom of expression, without fear of brutality or bodily harm.
The participants condemned the power seizure of President Morsi and are weary of the future demise of vital institutions, such as the country’s highest and most prestigious courts.