CAIRO (TrustLaw) – During last year’s uprising that toppled the three-decades-long regime of President Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian women were demonstrating alongside men and fighting the police who attacked protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
As the whole nation united under the cry for “bread, equality and social justice”, hopes were high that gender equality would prosper and sexism at home and at work would become a thing of the past.
Since then, however, women have found themselves sidelined from the political process now shaping the country. And liberal political parties, rights groups and activists fear that the new constitution - which is currently being drafted by an Islamist-led assembly - will roll back women’s rights.
Following is a brief outline of facts concerning women’s rights over the past 20 months.
- Women comprised just 2 percent of MPs in Egypt’s first democratically-elected parliament, convened on January 23, 2011. In the previous parliament, elected in 2010, women comprised 12 percent of MPs.
- The present cabinet under Prime Minister Hisham Kandil has more than 30 men and 2 women: Minister of Social Affairs Nagwa Khalil and Minister of Scientific Research Nadia Zakhary.
- There were seven women in the Islamist-led Constituent Assembly – the 100-member body drafting the new constitution elected in June
- In May 2011, a new electoral law was passed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which took power and dissolved parliament following the ouster of Mubarak in February 2011. The law abolished a 64-seat quota for women in parliament, and replaced it with a requirement that at least one woman has to be included in each party electoral list. However, the new law gives parties the right to place female candidates anywhere on the list. Candidates placed at the top of a party list are generally far more likely to win than those at the bottom.
- The constituent assembly has dropped Article 68 of the draft constitution which had previously sparked controversy among liberals and women’s rights groups. It said: "The state is committed to taking all constitutional and executive measures to ensure equality of women with men in all walks of political, cultural, economic and social life, without contradicting the precepts of Islamic Sharia".
- Four women MPs in the 2011 parliament represented the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which made up the majority in parliament. But the Muslim Brotherhood’s female members are not allowed to vote in internal elections.
- The Freedom and Justice Party’s 2011 election manifesto said that international agreements pertaining to women would be “re-evaluated in terms of suitability to our culture, traditions and established values”.
- Former head of the Freedom and Justice Party Mohamed Mursi became Egypt’s first democratically-elected president in June 2012. Mursi promised to “ensure women's access to all their rights, consistent with the values of Islamic law, maintaining the balance between their duties and rights”.