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Women Rights and the New Egypt

14/02/2012

In an unprecedented act of defiance, Samira Ibrahim, stood up in military court and demanded the halting of “virginity tests”.  Still today, a year since the beginning of the Tahrir square demonstrations, the fate of civil liberties and women’s rights remain uncertain in Egypt. The overall agenda for women’s rights groups in Egypt includes, but is not limited to, the promotion of literacy amongst women, amending the laws which discriminate against women in matters of personal status codes such as marriage, divorce, guardianship, custody and inheritance as well as promulgating laws which protect women from sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and enforcement of the country’s 2008 ban on female genital mutilation.

These groups have their work cut out for them as post revolutionary Egyptian politics are beginning to look quite gloomy in terms of female participation.

Women’s role in the public sector, especially the political scene, has witnessed a decline in post revolutionary politics – from the three women in the cabinet during Mubarak’s era to one in the current cabinet. Furthermore, women make up only 1% of members in the lower house. The ripple effect of the absence of women will also be reflected in the new constitution as the members of the houses will elect the 100 member task force entrusted to rewrite Egypt’s constitution.

However, the April 6 movement is not giving up as it is currently responsible for organising three campaigns to educate women on their rights as voters – hoping it will lead to an increased role for women in the writing of the new constitution.

With the Muslim Brotherhood silent when it comes to questions of gender equality, what will become of the women of Egypt?