The tour aims at reaching women of all classes and empowering them to get their legal rights and state benefits –Wikimedia/Meri Organization
CAIRO – 21 December 2018: The whole world is working to move forwards towards a more equal world, where women are treated with the utmost level of respect and have equal rights to men.
Among those countries working towards bettering women’s status is Egypt, with a number of key laws and legislative devices in place.
Egypt Today lists the top legislative tools protecting women in Egypt.
The two main legislative documents protecting and supporting women are the Egyptian Constitution of 2014, and the Criminal Code of 1937 and its amendments. Crimes against women in Egypt are divided into two groups: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors, such as catcalling or sexual harassment, are seen as less significant crimes than felonies, and are usually punished by fines and short-term jail time; the trails are also shortened. Felonies, like FGM, rape, kidnapping a female, or sexual assault, are punished by longer jail time, and a permanent record is placed for those convicted.
In the case of sexual assault, according to the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation in Ruling No. 289 of April 24, 1950, there is no need to prove that the offender had complete sexual intercourse with the victim against the victim’s will. It is sufficient for the offender to touch the victim with their hands, reproductive organs, or device against the victim’s will. To ensure justice, Ruling No. 4794 of February 14, 1985, was amended to add that the assailant must have had mental intent, meaning that it was not accidental. Law No. 11 of 2011 was later added to increase the penalty against attackers of children under the age of 18, under article 269 of the Criminal Code, to three to fifteen years in prison.
Although previously denounced, FGM was further condemned in 2008, and in August 2016, Article 242(bis) of the Criminal code suggested that the punishment of performing FGM is imprisonment with hard labor for up to 15 years.
Over the past three decades, the government has also introduced many reforms to improve the living standards of women. In 2000, the groundbreaking Khula Law, known as Law 1 of 2000, allowed women to file for divorce, in registered and unregistered marriages, without the husband’s consent. During the same year, Egypt also saw the establishment of the right for women to apply for a passport and travel without the husband’s consent.
Law 10 of 2004 introduced the Family Courts, allowing women to demand their rights and seek legal protection from domestic violence. Building on Law 10, Law 11 of 2004 established the Family Insurance Fund, a system through which women can collect court-ordered alimony and child support money. Law 154 was also changed in 2004 to allow children of Egyptian mothers and a foreign father to have equal citizenship rights; in the past, one could only be an Egyptian citizen if their father is Egyptian.
In 2008 reforms were also made to extend the mother’s legal custody to 15 years of age, raise the legal age of marriage to 18, and allow children to take their mother’s name, if their father is not proven.
Articles 11, 52, 60, 67, 71, 80, and 89 of the 2014 Constitution ensure the protection of women against violence, torture, mutilation and organ trade, incitement of violence against women or specific women-based groups, “impingement of individual honor”, sexual exploitation and assault, and human trafficking, respectively.
The first of its kind, the Violence Against Women (VAW) unit 2015-2020 aims to help women who report violent crimes by offering them social and psychological support. Although a groundbreaking establishment, the unit has not yet started functioning as regularly as it is supposed to. The strategy also aims to stop negative behavior against women at its roots by educating people and raising public awareness.
Recent law reforms, under the leadership of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, have managed to curb the percentage of women harassed or assaulted – physically, psychologically, or sexually. To fill his 28 parliamentary seats, which are the Egyptian president’s prerogative to fill, Sisi appointed an equal number of women and men, including women in high-level positions in the economic sector. Egypt’s National Council of Women, as well as grassroots organizations and non-governmental organizations, have also actively sought to develop action plans and raise public awareness.