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Egypt drops controversial article from draft constitution

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 8 Nov 2012 13:10 GMT
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(Updates throughout with details)

CAIRO/LONDON (TrustLaw) - Egypt’s constituent assembly has dropped a controversial article seen as a threat to women's rights from the draft constitution, a spokesman for the assembly’s Defence and Security Committee has said.

"We reached an agreement to drop article 68 as there is an article ensuring equality between all citizens without any discrimination based on gender, race or religion, which satisfied the liberal and secular forces,” Mohamed Mohi al-Din told TrustLaw.

An agreement was also reached on “the controversial article 2, which will state whether the legislation will be based on the principles of Sharia or rulings of Sharia, which satisfied the Islamist forces,” he added.

Mohi al-Din said the article has been removed for now, even though not all members of the constituent assembly agree on the decision. The draft of Egypt’s constitution is still being finalised and changes can still be made before it is officially presented on Dec 12.

Article 68 - which stated the state’s commitment to ensuring gender equality “as long as it does not conflict with the rulings of Islamic Sharia” - had sparked outcry among women rights activists and was one of the provisions highlighting the constituent assembly's struggle in balancing conservative and more liberal forces.

"What happened is they have put in an extremely poor article and now they want us to celebrate its removal," Nehad Abu Komsan, director of the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights, told TrustLaw.

"This is not a positive step," he added. "There is no insurance of women's rights and gender equality in the constitution - the article stating equality between all citizens has existed since the 1956 constitution and all through the 60 years there have been no developments, it simply exists for protocol."

Members of the assembly aim to hold final discussions next week and then vote on the articles by mid-November, before the document is submitted to a referendum for national approval, Reuters reported.

Drafts of the constitution drawn up by the assembly so far indicate it will have more Islamic references than the previous constitution, worrying more liberal-minded Egyptians and  the Christians who make up about a tenth of the nation’s 83 million people.

They fear the imposition of social restrictions.

(Reporting by Safaa Abdoun in Cairo and  Maria Caspani in London)

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