The Year 2012:
The Massive “Going Out” of the Egyptian Women
Nehad Aboul Komsan
Chair of ECWR
ECWR Research Unit
When President Mohammed Morsi stood before the United Nations this year, he was asked about the status of women in his country and confronted with international concern regarding their status and the challenges they face. He responded to these concerns, saying that “Egyptian women have the same rights as men. There even are some men who ask to be guaranteed the same rights as women!”
Of course the President was joking. However, recent data shows the severity of the situation for women in Egypt and reveals Egypt to be first in the world as far as the deterioration of women’s rights. Those in attendance were not receptive to Morsi’s joke, finding this humor an inappropriate response to a very serious issue. The delegation hoped that President Morsi could present a plan outlining the methods and procedures intended to advance the position of women in Egypt as the first elected president after a revolution that demanded justice and equality.
The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights compiled this year’s status report on the status of Egyptian women but faced a number of challenges during the research process. The most notable of these challenges was the scarcity of information and statistics portraying the situation of women. Most writings expressed admiration for Egyptian women and their presence in society and astonishment at their participation in public work, from which they were absent for decades.
As for the approved research institutions, they are, like Egypt as a whole, facing many problems that made the intellectual production and monitoring so modest compared with the previous years. Therefore, there are neither statistics nor sufficient analytical writings available to help us. The center, like many human rights and women’s organizations in Egypt, was also under intense pressure from the Ministry of Social Affairs. The approval of many of the center’s programs was delayed by disagreements and attempts to limit the NGO’s activities or paralyze them. This situation made the report dependent upon a limited number of researchers who exerted tremendous efforts in research and documentation. The center hopes to introduce a useful report on Egyptian Women in 2012 despite these challenges.
There are 2 main sections in this report:
Part I: Political and Civil Rights
Part II: Economic and Social Rights
● Part I: Political and Civil Rights
■ The People’s Assembly
■ Winners in the Parliamentary Elections in 2012
■ The Parliament and Women’s Rights
■ Draft Laws on Women’s Issues
■ Statements from Female Ex-Parliamentarians
■ The Shoura Council
■ Female Parliamentarians After Shoura Elections in 2012
■ Presidential Elections and the Candidates’ Programs
■ Women and the founding Committee of the constitution
■ Women and the Draft Constitution
■ Targeting Female Activists
■ Reforming the National Council of Women
● Part II: Economic and Social Rights
■ Female Trafficking
■ Women and Laws
■ Job Opportunities and Unemployment
■ Violence Against Women
■ Violence Against Egyptian Women Abroad
■ Women, Protests and Sit-Ins
■ Women’s Health Care
■ Women and Education
■ Women and Disability
■ Polls on Egyptian Women
Part I: Political and Civil Rights
Egypt witnessed severe deterioration on the level of political rights of women in 2012, ranking 125th out of 133 countries all over the world, as clarified in a report by the World Economic Forum 2012. Egypt also reached level 128 out of 131 countries regarding women presence in the parliaments as the percentage of female parliamentarians in Egypt decreased to 2% in 2011 parliament, after reaching 12.5% in 2010. In what has been called the “revolution parliament” female members were 5 out of 180 in the Shoura council, 2.7%.
The People’s Assembly:
Women’s participation in 2011-2012 parliamentary elections came in the shadow of the following factors:
● The rise of fundamental voices calling for the relegation of women into traditional gender roles and limiting her right to participate on all levels, especially politically. Some of those voices view women achieving parliamentary positions as “evil”. The Salafi parties were obliged to add women on their electoral lists.
● The parliamentary elections law stating that each electoral list should contain “at least” one woman did not oblige the parties to put women at the beginning of their lists to guarantee their representation.
● The increase of female candidates: there were a record 984 female candidates. 633 of them were nominated on electoral lists and 351 participated as individuals. In 2010 there were 404 female candidates, compared to 133 in 2005.
● The number of women with the right to vote reached 23 million, with 500 thousand exercising this right.
● The number of female candidates in the governorates in the conservative Upper Egypt and near the borders increased as well. The highest percentage for female candidates was in Aswan and North Sinai with 28.8% and 28% followed by Alwadi -Aljadid with 27% rate, and then Luxor 25% along with the Red Sea, Suez and Ismailia with the same percentage. As for the governorates of Cairo, Giza and Qualuoubia the percentage was 13%, 13% and 17.7 in row. The highest governorate in nominating women as individual candidates was Port Said and the Red Sea (11%), then South Sinai (10%) followed by Alwadi- Aljadid (7%) then Giza (5.6%). The governorate with the least women nominated as individuals was Kafr Alshikh (1.5%).
● The weak presence for female candidates on the political parties lists: Athawra Mostamerrah (16%)- Alkotla Almasryia: 15.7%- Alwafd Party: 13.7%- Freedom and Justice Party: 13.6%- Alnour Party 13.2%. As for smaller parties the percentage was higher: Human Rights and Citizenship Party 30%- Itihad Party 27.5%- Justice and Development Party: 25%- Ahrar Party: 25%.
Female candidates who won parliamentary seats in 2012:
name party governorate No.
Margret Azer Wafd Cairo- 2nd circle 1
Hanan Saad Abulghiet Hasan Wafd Damietta 2
Sanaa Ahmed Gamal Eddin Egyptian Block Alliance Assiut- 2nd circle 3
Huda Mohammad Anwar Ghaneya Freedom and Justice Qualioubia-1 4
Reda Abdullah Mohammed Freedom and Justice Sharqia-1 5
Azza Mohammed Algarf Freedom and Justice Giza- 2 6
Magda Hassan Alnwishy Wafd Ismaillia 7
Fadeya Salem Reform and Development South Sinai 8
Seeham Abdullatif mohammed Alyamani Freedom and Justice Daqahlia-1 9
Suzi Adly Nashed Appointed 10
Marian Malak Kamal Appointed 11
The Parliament and Women’s Rights:
■ Women had three seats in the parliament. Two of them were members in the regularities committee and the third participated in the general committee. There was no leading role for the women in the people’s assembly.
■ The women draft laws agenda inside the parliament was heading toward reducing marriage age, allowing FGM, and “farewell copulation.” The rumors were confirmed by the Muslim Brotherhood leader Sobhi Saleh, deputy of the Legislative Parliamentary Committee (Freedom and Justice). He said timidly that there were some members who raised the subject of “farewell copulation,” but it was not approved.
Draft Laws on Women Issues:
1 Mohammed AlOmda, the deputy of the Legislative Committee in the parliament, proposed a law draft to cancel the Article 20 of Law 1 for the year 2000. This article allows the woman to divorce herself without the approval of the husband. AlOmda praised the sheikhs’ refusal of the law and a fatwa issued in March 2012 considered any divorce based on this law “not halal”.
2 Hamada Mohammed Soliman, Alnour Party parliamentarian proposed a draft law demanding to amend some articles in the personal affairs law regarding the responsibility of women. He considered that the amendment in 2005 allowed women to be guardians of their kids until the age of 15. The parliamentarian felt that this amendment was a reason to harm families and fathers, asking for a return to allowing mothers to take care of the boys until the age of seven and girls until the age of nine to force divorced women to reconsider getting back to their husbands.
3 The female FJP parliamentarian Azza Algarf proposed a draft law to amend article 242 in Penal Code law no. 126 for the year 2008 that criminalized female genital mutilation. The amendment, which was postponed, stated that it is not allowed to have female genital mutilation outside hospitals without consulting a doctor. (May 2012)
4 The parliamentarian Magda Alnoichy proposed a draft law on health insurance for female breadwinners, states that health insurance should cover women that take care of the family and have no source of income or whose income does not exceed one and a half times the value of social security pension.
Statements from Female Ex-Parliamentarians
Azza AlGarf: In an interview with Al-Ahram on April 4, 2012, the parliamentarian talked about the Brotherhood vision for family law and a woman’s right to divorce. She said, “Indeed we have a plan to reconsider family laws as we think they are unfair, especially laws dealing with divorce and child custody as many social studies have proven that these laws result in higher divorce rates and dissolving Egyptian families. This is why those laws need to be reconsidered with the help of specialized researchers. This is the right of the whole society and not only of women, who should know the interests of the family more than men. In addition to the conversations going on in the legislature, we demand dialogue among social science specialists, psychiatric care givers, and Al-Azhar sheikhs.” She also suggested repealing the law of sexual harassment and justified her stance by saying, “Harassment happens because of a lack of modesty among women, and therefore harassers are not wrong.”
Reda Abdullah: Abdullah refused to be appointed to the national women’s council, stressing that it should be approved by the Muslim Brotherhood first. She consistently calls for legislative amendments favoring family laws according to Shariah, especially divorce law.
Huda Ghania: The Freedom and Justice Party parliamentarian said, “I refuse to be representative of women. I represent the people. As for laws and legislation regarding women, this is not the proper time. The country endures a very dangerous era right now and there are more important priorities, such as the upcoming elections and the constitutional declaration. It is too early to talk about women’s rights.”
Seham Aljamal: Also a Freedom and Justice Party parliamentarian, she said, “We are representatives of the people in general, not only of women. There is no draft law for women yet, and in case there is a proposal to amend or approve this kind of legislation, we will make sure it is in favor of the family and in accordance with Shariah, even if it comes out against international agreements ratified by Egypt during the past regime.”
Margret Azer: Al-Wafd party parliamentarian, she said that female parliamentarians’ role after the revolution is not to concentrate only on women issues and stated, “As a female parliamentarian, I am not concerned with women’s issues as there are so many important issues that need to be considered now in order to retain balance for the whole society.”
Sanaa Elsaid: Elsaid questioned the parliament about the legal position of the Muslim Brotherhood and raised suspicions about the sources of their funding. She also confronted the severe attack from Freedom and Justice Party female parliamentarians against women’s rights and laws affecting women.
Magda Hassan Alnwishy: Alnwishy submitted a draft law on health insurance for female breadwinners. She additionally made a number of requests for the list of candidates for National Council for Women and dismissed the names of leading National Democratic Party members. Alnwishy also topped the discussions on the issue of foreign funding and claimed to know who was in charge of allowing the defendants to travel. She believed the case was not without some administrative mistakes.
The Shoura Council:
■ 396 female candidates ran Shoura elections, which was forty times the number of candidates in 2010. Only five women won in Shoura elections: 2.7% out of 180 seats.
■ The five women who reached the Shoura council did so because of their advanced position on the lists of their party.
Here is an illustration for parties that inserted female candidate in advanced positions on their lists:
Names of female winners in the Shoura elections, 2012
name Party governorate
Suzan Saad Zaghloul Freedom and Justice Party Suez
Nagwa Mahmoud Freedom and Justice Party Fayoum
Wafaa Mostafa Mashour Freedom and Justice Party Asiut
Mirvt Mohammed Hassan Al-Wafd Menofeia
RedaNour-Eddin Hussein Al-Wafd Port Said
Presidential Elections and the Candidates’ Platforms:
Some female activists declared their candidacy for presidency: Bothaina Kamel, well-known news anchor, Anas Alugoud Eliwa, writer, and the human rights activist, Dalia Ziada. The women faced many challenges and not one of them managed to get the necessary legal approval from 30,000 citizens from fifteen different governorates or approval from thirty elected parliamentarians. In the end, the list of candidates for presidency contained only men.
Dr. Mohammed Morsi’s Platform:
Out of all of the candidates’ programs, Dr. Morsi’s dealt least with women issues. His program depended on charity, considering women to be weak and needing protection, not as equal citizens deserving equal rights. This program concentrated on what Dr. Morsi called “social empowerment,” which he defined as “fast rescue for the family” without any clarification, leaving many lingering questions: Who will rescue the family? And from what?
Dr. Morsi also mentioned confronting illiteracy, which conflicts with a draft law adopted by his party that aims to reduce the marriage age for women from eighteen to sixteen.
Remarkably, he lists women’s issues as part of his “special files,” which means he will focus on changing the personal status law to comply with Shariah. The program did not elaborate on the implications of this decision. Will Morsi’s interpretation of Shariah be adapted to changing times, like what is found in the Tunisian and Moroccan Codes of Family? Many fear that it will be more conservative than the current law and heading down the path of failed states like Afghanistan.
When Dr. Morsi touched upon the economic projects focused on women in the workplace, it was in the framework of individual development, which many studies show result in the deterioration of already dismal economic conditions.
Amr Moussa’s Platform:
The program had a clear human rights perspective, and stressed that there is no way to develop and move towards democracy while the community is marginalizing women. The program stated that achieving this is an important responsibility of the state, and it should adopt some procedures to combat the marginalization of women. It was the only program that talked about constitutional and legislative guarantees to achieve equality and confront discrimination. It also confirmed the importance of national mechanisms such as The National Council for Women and the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood and concentrated on social, economic, and political rights, emphasizing participation. He promised to appoint a female deputy, a significant shift in the discourse.
Hamdeen Sabahi’s Platform:
The human rights champion was clear that his program would concentrate on economic and social rights, especially those of the poor and marginalized classes. Despite his refusal not to give a special space for women, he put them in the frame of fighting discrimination and he raised some doubts regarding absolute equality. The program asserted that women face the same problems as the rest of the community and also have their own troubles, such as the illiteracy percentage which is double the rates of illiteracy among men. The program also noted that unemployment among women is four times that of unemployment among men. The program was not clear regarding the mechanisms to be followed in order to turn talks about ending discrimination into reality. Hamdeen also promised to appoint a woman as his deputy.
Abdul-Monem Abulfotouh’s Platform:
His program was characterized by a turn toward development and lengthy discussions on youth empowerment. He stressed that 50% of high positions should be for young males and females. With regards to women’s rights, he merely mentioned “making available the right conditions” for them.
Khaled Ali’s Platform:
Ali was clearer on his stances regarding women’s issues, especially when his program stressed the necessity of making women’s participation in the institutional committee at least 30% and demanding to expand this to the rest of decision making positions. The program also expressed a focus on equality in all fields.
Ahmad Shafiq’s Platform:
Shafiq’s stances on women’s rights were not articulated very clearly in discussions outlining his proposed program. As a member of Mubarak’s regime, his program was shaped by creating an image of women’s issues to contrast the opposing Islamic candidates’ stance. Shafiq played on the fear that Islamists will marginalize women and take rights away from the middle class and was seen by his supporters as someone who could protect society from these influences.
Women and the Founding Committee for drafting the constitution:
The Supreme Council for Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a constitutional declaration on 13th Feb. 2011 announcing the suspension of the 1971 constitution. They formed a committee to draft constitutional amendments in preparation for parliamentary and presidential elections and the write a new constitution. Human rights organizations drew attention to the need for at least 30% representation of women in the founding committee of the constitution.
Dr. Kamal Ganzouri, then Prime Minister, confirmed the need for the presence of women in the committee so that the Constitution should contain new articles to ensure women’s rights. He said that women are often not seen as humans or Egyptian citizens who possess rights, duties, ambitions, and needs. These testimonies were inevitably mere ink on paper; the committee was elected with only six female members out of 100.
Women in the first founding committee of the constitution:
This committee contradicted several laws and constitutional amendments, which prompted lawyers, jurists, political activists, intellectuals, and public figures to file lawsuits demanding a change in the parliament’s decision regarding the criteria for selecting the committee members who would draft a new constitution.
A decision was issued by the Administrative Court in April, confirming the invalidity of the formation of the founding committee of the constitution. A second committee was formed, which was also comprised of a majority of Freedom and Justice Party members and did not include a significant representation of women. Women were only represented by 7 members out of 100, or 7%.
Women in the second founding committee of the constitution:
Women and the draft constitution
Human rights and women’s organizations worked to assure the presence of clear articles to protect women’s rights in the constitution:
■ The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights sent a study to the founding committee of the constitution entitled “Equality Between Men and Women in the Constitution: Wording and Content,” which presented reports of forty states that went through political transitions in the Arab world and greater Middle East, as well as other Islamic states, Eastern European states, and Asian and Latin American states. The study showed how to include women’s rights in the constitution and its preamble.
■ The alliance of women’s organizations presented a document entitled, “Women and the Constitution,” which was prepared by a number of activists, and contained some general constitutional principles, which provide equality and protection against discrimination between women and men along with guaranteeing a commitment to international treaties dealing with the rights of women. It also contained several other articles dealing with equality, political participation, and the right to work, childhood, education, personal freedom, and health care.
■ The National Council for Women wrote a statement directed to the founding committee of the constitution regarding the necessary articles that should be included in the new constitution and how to overcome the under-representation of women. The Council demanded that articles 40, 11, 10, 8, and 2 of the 1971 constitution be kept, as they deal with women’s issues, family and personal freedoms.
■ The Baheya movement delivered a document with articles it believed should be added to the constitution and organized various protests in front of the Shoura Council and the Presidential palace to push those demands forward.
The committee did not even respond to the requests by the women’s movements, and the Constitution did not address women’s rights in a significant manner. Women and human rights activists and organizations expressed their rejection to the draft constitution, particularly its disregard for the rights and freedoms of women. Amnesty International expressed “anxiety” about the lack of an article in the Constitution that explicitly prohibits discrimination based on gender.
Article 10 confirms that the state should work on the balance between family and work duties of women at home and in the community. The organization also expressed further concern over Article 219, which defines the principles of Sharia as “rules of jurisprudence,” which would impact women’s rights, and may be used as a justification for retaining the current legislation that discriminates against women in matters of marriage, divorce, and family life.
Article 2 makes the principles of Islamic law the main source of legislation.
Many articles in the constitution defend the importance of these principles, which is almost the same philosophy of 1971 constitution. Women’s rights are mentioned in general terms that open the door wide for violence against women and other violations.
Not only that, the articles that were supposed to guarantee rights for Egyptian women were removed from this constitution. It instead used vague words to ensure rights for all citizens and protect against discrimination under the law. The constitution stated that all citizens are equal in duties and rights, without mentioning any clear protection for women.
The constitution only mentioned women in one article (No. 10), which says, “Family is the basis of a society that is based on religion, ethics, and patriotism. The state and the society commit to the original nature of Egyptian family – its coherence and stability – and seek to deepen its ethical values and protect them as regulated by the law. The state guarantees motherhood and childhood services for free, and will fulfill the balance between a woman’s duties toward her family and her public work. The state gives special care and protection to divorced, widowed, and working women.”
This article does not see a woman as anything but a wife, as if her primary role in society is to give birth to children and do housework, as if her own work and career should come second. Moreover, the phrase “the original nature for the Egyptian family” opens the door for religious police, and its connection to women could make way for violence against women in the workplace and in the streets, if these areas are not considered to be female spaces.
Targeting Female Activists:
The year 2012 witnessed the following:
■ The investigation of cartoonist Doaa Aladl for a cartoon she drew that allegedly insulted the prophet; the investigation is a clear violation of freedom of expression.
■ The systematic “moral assassination” of Dr. Amna Nossir, professor of religion at the University of Al-Azhar, on the basis that she confronted attacks on women’s rights in the name of religion.
■ The systematic attacks against anchor Lamees Al-Hadidi; assassination threats made against her because of her position as part of a campaign against media.
■ The accusations toward news anchor Geehan Mansour of being an agent for foreign entities, which was also a part of the campaign against media and the siege of Media Production City.
■ Attacks against a large number of female photojournalists and reporters during their work during the revolution.
■ Investigation of psychiatrist Manal Omar and accusations claiming that she insulted the president because she had analyzed his personality in a TV show.
■ The suspension of five female teachers in the nursing faculty for three months and the following investigation after their protest against the decision made by the head of the university to hire a dean of nursing who is not from its staff, which is a violation of the law.
■ Violence against female activists during the incidents of Itihadya (presidential Palace) by the hands of supporters of Dr. Mohammed Morsi. Extreme violence was used to break up the sit-in.
Part II: Economic and Social Rights
■ A report issued by the U.S. State Department in 2012 said that Egypt is on the list of countries that do not fully adhere to the minimum standards stated in the law of Trafficking Victims Protection. It said that Egypt is a destination for women and girls who are forced into prostitution, including refugees and immigrants from Asia, Africa and, to a lesser extent, the Middle East. In previous reporting periods, there was some evidence that Egypt is a transit country for trafficked women from Eastern European countries to Israel for sexual exploitation, but there is little recent evidence to suggest that this is still the preferred route.
■ The National Center for Social and Criminological Research issued a report confirming that 40% of women in prison on charges of prostitution have been forced into prostitution through deception, threat, or rape.
Women and Laws: Renewed Battles
■ This year witnessed the issuance of only one piece of legislation pertaining to women: a health insurance law for female breadwinners. It was issued in May and provided that “a health insurance scheme for female breadwinners should be established. The plan caters to those who take care of themselves or their families and are not included under the umbrella of health insurance or any other law.” The law has yet to be enforced.
■ The year 2012 witnessed political battles that used personal status laws as the “magic solution” to cover up the failure of economic and social policies. Those laws have been used as a smoke bomb, which is detonated whenever politicians need to distract the community. The political Islamic powers used family and child laws to restrict women’s rights and empowerment in order to gain further control over the community. Children’s issues were used to persuade ordinary people to favor legislation that, in reality, had nothing to do with children or family but only served as a means to control. The conflict intensified in the beginning of the year when people took to the streets in front of the People’s Assembly and Al-Azhar to share their opinions on the compatibility of these laws with Islam. Despite these demonstrations, President Morsi seized the legislative authority for more than six months and during this time there no one spoke out against personal status laws, which had been a priority before the presidential elections.
■ The beginning of this battle is marked by a request made by the parliamentarian Mohammad Alomda to repeal Article 20 of Law No. 1 of 2000 that organizes the conditions and litigation procedures in personal status laws. The article itself gives women the right to obtain a divorce and return any money she had received from the husband over the course of the marriage. He sent his request to the Proposals and Complaints Committee of the People’s Assembly and the Committee transferred the request to Al-Azhar to demonstrate the compatibility of the divorce law with Islamic law.
■ While Al-Azhar was looking into the request, several protests were organized by Islamists to demand the abolition of a woman’s right to get a divorce on the grounds that the law was incompatible with Islam. On the other side there were protests organized by women demanding the survival of the personal status law because it is the last resort for women whose husbands refuse to divorce. These protestors also asserted that the personal status law was compatible with Shariah.
■ Al-Azhar’s decision ended this debate and came out in support of women and wives. “Al-Azhar and the Fatwa entity represented by Dr. Abdullah Al-Najjar, a member of the Islamic Research Academy, and Dr. Mohamed Adel Alzenqly, advisor of the Grand Mufti, stressed that the abolition of divorce goes against what was in the Qur’aan and Sunnah and based their approval of the divorce law on a hadeeth (a saying by the prophet Mohammed), which stated that the wife of Thabit ibn Qays ibn Shammas went to the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, asking to get a divorce. Prophet Mohammed asked her to give a garden to her husband and then ordered her husband to divorce her.”
■ Based on this ruling, the parliament rejected the proposed amendment to the personal status law and discarded the article proposed by Mohammed AlOmda.
■ The battle then moved on to a child custody law and began with parliamentarian Hamada Soliman, Al-Nour Party member and Salafist, when he proposed an amendment asking to end divorced women’s guardianship of their sons at the age of seven and their daughters at the age of nine. At this point the judge should ask them whether they prefer to stay with their mother or their father. If they choose the mother, the father is not required to provide any financial support to his ex-wife or children. Many demonstrations arose on both sides; Islamists and mothers took to the streets to champion their causes. Al-Azhar also rejected this amendment, saying that boys can choose between their father and mother at the age of 15 and that a girl should stay with their mothers until they are married. At the end of a meeting chaired by Dr. Ahmad Altayeb, the Grand Sheikh, the Grand Mufti, and a number of other prominent sheikhs of Al-Azhar, they decided that all articles of the law comply with Shariah and that disputes between divorced couples is a hardship for the children and, therefore, keeping children in their mother’s care until the ages specified in the law is in the psychological interest of the children.
Job Opportunities and Unemployment
■ In a report in “The Economist” magazine about economic opportunities for women in 2012, Egypt was ranked number 80 out of 128 countries. It was also ranked as first in the list of countries that recorded a decline in access to economic opportunities for women compared to reports in previous years. As for Egypt’s rank among the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, Egypt is seventh among fifteen countries in a report outlining the economic opportunities available to women in these countries. Egypt ranked 124 of 132 in terms of the opportunities and economic participation of women according to a report in the Gender Gap Index in 2012 issued by the World Economic Forum. As for the ratio of women to men in the workforce, Egypt ranked 130 among 134 countries and 99 of 113 countries in terms of women’s access to management, legislative, and senior government positions.
■ The study entitled “Economic and Social Costs of Discrimination against Women in Education and the Labor Market ” confirmed that the discrimination against women costs Egypt more than 70 billion Egyptian pounds (11.6 billion dollars) annually, resulting from the level of women’s education and lower contribution in the labor force. The study stressed that discrimination against women in Egypt and the Arab world means fewer opportunities for education, pointing to the fact that women are more vulnerable to exploitation in family businesses. Based on this assumption, the community loses the equivalent of 12.2 billion pounds in fees for about 4.1 million women because of unpaid work. It is worth noting that in Egypt the percent of women in the labor force is 23.9% compared to the global average of 40%.
■ This study shows that women’s participation in the Egyptian labor force has fallen from third place to ninth while other Arab countries have seen a continuous rise in women’s participation, which has served as a catalyst for women’s education in the lower and middle classes. The study blames the Egyptian phenomenon on the focus of governmental investment spending on infrastructure projects that provide jobs that tend to discriminate decisively against women because they require physical strength and therefore cater more to men. Because it is so hard for women to find jobs, women’s education is not prioritized or encouraged. The study suggests restructuring new investments and public spending in order to meet the needs of the economy and society.
Violence Against Women
The year 2012 witnessed many manifestations of violence against women, including domestic violence, circumcision, early marriage, and sexual harassment. A study  was issued confirming that 60% of women have been victims of domestic violence, 88% have been subjected to FGM, and 38% were forced into early marriages. The study also found that 51.6% have been subjected to verbal harassment, with the Port Said governorate recording the highest percentage with 81.6%, while Cairo reported the lowest with 29.5%. As for physical sexual harassment, the study found that 31.8% of women nationwide have been victims. The highest rate was the Gharbya, which recorded 53.4%, and the lowest was Sharqya with 9%. As for the exposure to robbery, the study recorded an average of 39.3%. The highest percentage was found in Bahira, which recorded 68.6% and Damietta recorded the lowest with a percentage of 9.2%.
As for women’s views regarding the main reason for violence, 24.4% of them said that the way women dress is the reason for the violence. 17.3% of them felt that it is the way women walk and 62.8% said that it is the absence of ethics that is the reason for violence. 41.7% of respondents attributed this violence to an absence of security, with 31.8% of them confirming that the weakness of law enforcement and surveillance is the reason for the violence they experience in the street and on public transportation.
After the January revolution and the acquisition of control by political Islamic powers, new kinds of violence against women emerged. Mansoura University tried to separate male students from female students in the Faculty of Medicine, claiming that it would ease tensions between the two parties. Disputes over FGM erupted after an advisor to the president said that circumcision is part of the Islamic faith. She later denied the statement. The dispute continued in the Human Rights Committee of Shoura Council over FGM, but the practice was ultimately denounced by sheikhs and physicians after a parliamentarian demanded that FGM be enforced to achieve equality between women and men.
After much international attention, sexual harassment continues in Egypt, with the country ranking second in the world after Afghanistan with regards to harassment. Harassment cases during Eid al-Fitr (El Fitr feast) in Cairo reached 462 reported cases, which brought women’s issues (especially sexual harassment) to the attention of the community. An increasing number of youth initiatives have emerged to combat sexual harassment, including the following initiatives: I Will Not Keep Silent Regarding Harassment, Harassment Map, I Wish, Imprint, I Witnessed Harassment, Anti-Harassment, Be a Man, Popular Campaign Against Harassment, Still Human, Not Guilty, Bahia O Egypt, and Fouada Watch. These movements organize events that take place in the streets and other public places in order to raise the awareness about sexual harassment and its dangers. Some also report cases and receive information about harassment and determine where it takes place. A few of these groups roam the streets during holidays to stop any harassment attempts and still others confront sexual harassment in Tahrir Square.
In addition, human chains to protect women from harassment, such as the I wish campaign, have become more prominent, especially during holidays. The initiative has gathered independent youth from different social movements and the Constitution Party and taken it upon themselves to deal with harassment. Additionally, there was a documentary film entitled “Cut Your Hands,” which condemned sexual harassment.
Violence Against Egyptian Women Abroad:
There were many situations in 2011 that pointed out the absence of any protection for Egyptian women abroad. One example is the case of Egyptian citizen Najla Wafa, who traveled to Saudi Arabia seven years ago to work and ultimately established a successful business. She was arrested after a dispute broke out between her and one of the Saudi princesses. She was tried and sentenced to prison for five years and 500 lashes – 50 lashes per week beginning in May 2012. After she was lashed 300 times, she suffered spinal injuries as well as psychological wounds, which represented a threat to her life. Egyptian efforts did not succeed to lift the injustice and she completed 500 lashes in December.
There is also the case of Egyptian journalist Shaimaa Adel, who was arrested while covering a demonstration protesting prices in Sudan. Despite favorable Egyptian-Sudanese relations after President Mohamed Morsi came to power in Egypt, she was held in Sudanese prisons for about 14 days. Not a single Egyptian official came to her aid until the 11th day, when a Sudanese official told her that her mother began a hunger strike to protest her incarceration and that there were demonstrations in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Cairo calling for her release. Shaimaa indicated that without public pressure she would have stayed in prison even longer.
Women, Protests, and Sit-Ins
2012 witnessed more that 50 feminist events dealing with issues ranging from women’s rights to human rights:
■ During the first anniversary of the revolution, women participated in a march stressing revolutionary demands and chanting slogans such as, “Bread, freedom, social justice!” The march stressed that the slogans and demands are still the same and that none of their demands had been met.
■ On Sunday, February 5th, after the Port Said incidents, a women’s march was organized from Kasr Elini Street to the people’s assembly. The participants wore black and chanted, “Oh, my country… Police killed my sons.” They submitted three demands to the parliament. They asked them to: 1) End the use of tear gas, 2) Take the soldiers out of the streets and bring them inside the ministry headquarters, and 3) Allow the submission of candidates for the presidential election by February 11th and form a new government from the people’s assembly members.
■ In February dozens of female political activists protested in front of the People’s Assembly and chanted slogans against the SCAF, demanding their departure and the fulfillment of the goals of the revolution. They also demanded that they stop killing the youth and insulting Egyptian women.
■ On International Women’s Day, several women’s organizations organized protests in front of the Press Syndicate and marches through the streets of downtown Cairo, demanding 50% of seats in the committee for drafting the constitution. They also demanded that civilian youth who have been tried in front of a military court be tried before a civil court. Hundreds of women participated in marches after invitations from women’s organizations and women’s rights advocates.
■ In July, after the election of President Dr. Mohammed Morsi, several women’s rights groups and activists organized a march from Roxy Square to the presidential Palace to submit written demands urging him to give a speech guaranteeing certain rights for women. Human rights organizations submitted nine key demands to the President: 1) Emphasize the rights of women in personal status laws, especially in regards to the custody of their children, 2) Emphasize equality with men under divorce law, 3) Ensure equality between women and men in job opportunities and the workplace, 4) Ensure equal opportunities for education for women and men, 5) Ensure freedom of movement to travel outside of the country or inside, 6) Protect the women’s movement in the public sphere, 7) Take political action to protect women from harassment, 8) Continue the criminalization of FGM, and 9) Do not repeal the law allowing Egyptian mothers to give citizenship to her children from a non-Egyptian father.
■ During the first week of December, women in black clothes carried coffins to the presidential palace protesting violence against peaceful demonstrators.
■ In December women participated in a large march to Tahrir Square, which was announced by the National Salvation Front and a number of other political forces, to denounce the fraud that has been committed during the referendum on the constitution in its first phase. The marches demanded to halt the second phase until achieving a consensus on the constitution
Women’s protests this year were marked by many new forms of expression. One recent example was a demonstration where a group of girls in Tahrir cut their hair to express rejection of the Constitution. Another group of women participated in a demonstration with cooking utensils, protesting the rigging of the referendum on the draft constitution by the Muslim Brotherhood and to demand a civil state. The women intended to draw attention to themselves to reaffirm the rights of women in political participation and to remind people that their role is not limited to cooking food.
Similarly, women participated in demonstrations with pots and dishware, protesting against rising prices. There were many marches throughout the year that demonstrate women’s participation. Whether in Tahrir Square or in front of the president’s Palace, many women are calling for the fulfillment of the demands of the revolution and just representation of women in founding committee of the constitution.
Women’s health care situation
■ Based on the report of the gender gap in Egypt 2012, Egypt ranked no. 64 regarding the expected heath life of women compared to men. As for the report on “motherhood status in the world 2012” issued by save the children, Egypt came into position 65 on the ranking of motherhood health and 72 on the women’s health index.
■ Although there was a health insurance law for women breadwinners, which is almost the only achievement of the dissolved parliament, but it have not been enforced and no procedures had been taken to survey the women who need health services.
Women and education
According to the 2012 Gender Gap Index, Egypt ranked 116 among 135 countries in terms of literacy among women and men. As for the enrollment in primary education, Egypt ranked 117 among 133 countries and ranked 103 in terms of women’s enrolment in secondary education out of these 134 countries. Egypt ranked 98 among 134 countries in terms of women’s enrollment rates in university education compared to men.
■ Educational curricula is still rife with discrimination against women and serves to confirm the image of women as wives and mothers without seeing them as equal citizens and without viewing male-female relationships as a partnership. The advisor of Philosophy and National Education, Dr. Mohammad Sharif, has made statements calling for changes in the national education books for the next school year. One such change would be to delete the image of Doria Shafik, one of the pioneer women’s liberation movements in Egypt in the first half of the twentieth century, from the textbooks. Doria fought for the Egyptian women’s right to vote and nominated herself as a candidate in 1957. She was also the founder of many literary journals and a researcher and campaigner against British presence in Egypt. The reason behind the deletion of her photo from the high school textbook is the fact that she did not wear the veil and this led to objection by some religious satellite channels.
■ In a clear violation of the right of students to express their opinions, the Ministry of Education investigated 17-year-old female high school student Rana Syed because of her participation in a demonstration against the constitution. Rana stated that she and her colleagues decided to march in a demonstration that demanded the rejection of the constitution and after the completion of the event she was summoned for investigation by the ministry. She went on: “The investigation sought information about the cause of the march and my opinion on the President and my personal views regarding many things.” She added that, “The ministry wanted to convey the message that they reject the emergence of an opposing generation.”
■ This year a phenomenon surfaced where the schools were turned into an arena where students started to refuse the enforcement of radical ideas by force or imposition of the veil on female students, and also to condemn violence in schools that reached to an extent of cutting the hair of female students in Luxor and beatings in a number of other schools.
Women and Disability: the loss of rights in Egypt and big successes in the 2012 London Paralympics
Disabled women in Egypt face many issues on a daily basis. They are forbidden to work. Families hide their disabled members from society as if they are shameful and must be concealed. The situation of disabled women in Egypt exposes human rights violations and blatant discrimination in rehabilitation, care, rights, education, employment, protection and legal support. The Egyptian government does not differentiate between one disability and another. The government even expressed reservations on Article 12 of the International Convention for the Disabled, which states that people with disabilities should be equal to other people under the law.
Despite the discrimination faced by Egyptian women with disabilities, they saw significant achievement in the 2012 London Paralympics. Fatima Omar won the gold medal in weightlifting, Heba Ahmed won the silver medal in running, weightlifter Randa Tajuddin won a silver medal, and Amal Mahmoud won a bronze medal in weightlifting.
Polls on Egyptian Women:
The Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Basira) conducted an exploratory study entitled, “Women’s Aspirations after the January 25th Revolution” on a sample of 3002 women whose ages ranged from 18 to 64 years. The results revealed that 69% of women in Egypt believe that a woman is fit to be a minister, while 79% believe that she is fit to be a member of parliament. 57% of women thought that education is more important than marriage, which reflects women’s personal and behavioral capabilities and a deficit in educational aspirations and knowledge due to economic and cultural factors, which limits the capacity for development of these capabilities in order to achieve real opportunities for empowerment.
Moreover, 47% of women believe that women face unique problems in the workplace such as hazing and harassment, which their male colleagues to not experience. However, the study revealed that many women exhibit a clear preference for marriage over work, with the pressures of family and community surrounding women and limiting their ability to achieve her own goals through work. The results also showed that Egyptian women have high ambition combined with low aspirations to play a role in public life (the contradiction that we are faced with is that… “ambition” and “aspirations” are almost synonymous words used in different contexts), they are also restricted by the traditional values of Egyptian women, which still limit their capacity to realize their own aspirations despite the advancement of women since their mothers’ generation.
 Gender gap index issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2012
 Report magazine “The Economist” in 2012 for economic opportunities for women in 2012
 Gender gap index issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2012
 Gender gap index issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2012
 The first and second phase of parliamentarian elections were at the end of 2011
 Average result of surveying a sample of women’s committees in the elections and the referendum
 Issued by Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies – Dr. Ahmed El Sayed El-Naggar
 A study issued by the National Council for Women on a sample of 13,500 women and girls