Egypt ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) on September 18, 1981.
Upon ratification, Egypt made reservations to the following CEDAW articles: 2, 9:2, 16, and 29 as described in detail below.
- In respect of article 9: Reservation to the text of article 9, paragraph 2, concerning the granting to women of equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children, without prejudice to the acquisition by a child born of a marriage of the nationality of his father. This is in order to prevent a child’s acquisition of two nationalities where his parents are of different nationalities, since this may be prejudicial to his future. It is clear that the child’s acquisition of his father’s nationality is the procedure most suitable for the child and that this does not infringe upon the principle of equality between men and women, since it is customary for a woman to agree, upon marrying an alien, that her children shall be of the father’s nationality.
- In respect of article 16: Reservation to the text of article 16 concerning the equality of men and women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations during the marriage and upon its dissolution, without prejudice to the Islamic Sharia’s provisions whereby women are accorded rights equivalent to those of their spouses so as to ensure a just balance between them. This is out of respect for the sacrosanct nature of the firm religious beliefs which govern marital relations in Egypt and which may not be called in question and in view of the fact that one of the most important bases of these relations is an equivalency of rights and duties so as to ensure complementary which guarantees true equality between the spouses. The provisions of the Sharia lay down that the husband shall pay bridal money to the wife and maintain her fully and shall also make a payment to her upon divorce, whereas the wife retains full rights over her property and is not obliged to spend anything on her keep. The Sharia therefore restricts the wife’s rights to divorce by making it contingent on a judge’s ruling, whereas no such restriction is laid down in the case of the husband.
- In respect of article 29: The Egyptian delegation also maintains the reservation contained in article 29, paragraph 2, concerning the right of a State signatory to the Convention to declare that it does not consider itself bound by paragraph 1 of that article concerning the submission to an arbitral body of any dispute which may arise between States concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention. This is in order to avoid being bound by the system of arbitration in this field.
- General reservation on article 2: The Arab Republic of Egypt is willing to comply with the content of this article, provided that such compliance does not run counter to the Islamic Sharia.
Summary of Official CEDAW Reports:
Since its ratification of CEDAW in 1981, Egypt has submitted official reports to the CEDAW Committee (“Committee”) on five occasions. The first periodic report was submitted in February 1983 and the most recent report was submitted in March 2000.
In response to the most recent report, the Committee released comments in January 2001 regarding Egypt’s progress in implementing CEDAW as well as the areas of concerns. The Committee expressed gratitude towards Egypt for its comprehensive responses to the questions of the Committee’s pre-session working group, as well as its high-level and large delegation. The open dialogue between the delegation and the Committee was also appreciated.
A detailed account of progress expressed by the Committee following Egypt’s report in 2000 as follows:
- The establishment of the National Council for Women is mandated to monitor laws and policies affecting women’s lives, raise awareness and monitor the implementation of the Convention. The Committee commends the fact that non-governmental organizations are represented in the Council and that they participated in the preparation of the reports.
- Introduction of legal reforms aimed at the elimination of discrimination against women, particularly LawNo. 1 of 2000, which gives women a right to terminate a marriage unilaterally.
- Reduction of female illiteracy rates obtained by implementing special programs and specific budgetary allocations.
A detailed account of recommendations made by the Committee following Egypt’s report in 2000 as follows:
- Expedite the steps necessary for the withdrawal of its reservations and in that regard draws its attention to the Committee’s statement on reservations in its report.
- Consider a revision of Law No. 1 of 2000, in order to eliminate financial discrimination against women.
- Revise the legislation governing nationality in order to make it consistent with the provisions of the Convention.
- Increase awareness-raising programs, including those specifically directed towards men, and to take measures to change stereotypical attitudes and perceptions about the roles and responsibilities of women and men.
- Support the important role of the media in changing stereotypical attitudes towards women and in promoting equality between men and women as prescribed by the Constitution and international standards.
- Create opportunities for the portrayal of positive, non-traditional images of women and that the number of women in decision-making positions in the media, and establish a monitoring body on the representation of women in the media.
- Address the multidimensional and cross-cutting nature of HIV/AIDS, including its human rights, economic, social, development and security dimensions.
- Strengthen its efforts to eradicate female illiteracy, in particular in the rural areas, and continue its programs to prevent drop-outs by girls in primary education, and to reduce the drop-out rate of girls and young women at secondary school and university, including through the use of incentives for parents, so as to provide young women with the necessary skills and knowledge to participate on the basis of equality with men in the labor market.
- Increase the number of women at all levels of decision-making, including in government and Parliament.
- Implement temporary special measures, such as numerical goals and quotas connected to time frames, in accordance with article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, in order to increase the representation of women at decision-making levels in all areas.
- Provide more information on the participation and conditions of women in the labor market in its next periodic report.
- Conduct a national survey of the extent of violence against women, including rural women.
- Assess the impact of existing measures to address the various forms of violence against women, and investigate the root causes of violence against women, especially domestic violence, so as to improve the effectiveness of legislation, policies and programs aimed at combating such violence.
- Implement training and sensitization programs for the judiciary, law-enforcement officials and members of the legal and health professions, as well as awareness-raising measures to create zero tolerance in society with regard to violence against women.
- Eliminate any discriminatory penal provisions, in accordance with the Constitution and the Convention.
- Provide full details on the implementation of the Minister of Health’s 1996 Decree on female genital mutilation in its next report, including on public awareness-raising campaigns run by all actors (ministries, the National Council for Women and non-governmental organizations) and on measures that have been taken to educate those whose livelihood depends on performing such procedures.
- Provide in its next periodic report a comprehensive picture of the situation of rural women, in particular with regard to education, health and employment.
- Monitor existing programs and develop additional policies and programs aimed at the economic empowerment of rural women, ensuring their access to productive resources and capital as well as to health-care services and to social and cultural opportunities.
- Amend the law on the legal age of marriage to prevent early marriage, in line with its obligations as a State party to the Convention.
- Take measures to prevent the practice of polygamy in accordance with the provisions of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation 21.9
- Sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention and to deposit, as soon as possible, its instrument of acceptance of the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention, concerning the meeting time of the Committee.
- Respond to the concerns expressed in the present concluding comments in its next periodic report submitted under article 18 of the Convention.
- Disseminate widely the Committee’s concluding comments in order to make the people of Egypt, in particular governmental administrators and politicians, aware of the steps that have been taken to ensure de jure and de facto equality for women and of the future steps that are required in this regard.
- Continue to disseminate widely, in particular to women’s and human rights organizations, the Convention and its Optional Protocol, the Committee’s
general recommendations, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the results of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.
Summary of Shadow Reports:
To date, one shadow report has been submitted regarding the progress of the implementation of CEDAW in Egypt. This report was presented by the Egyptian NGO’s Coalition in 2000. The report focused mainly on tracking all kinds of discrimination against women whether in legislation, politics, or social practices.
The Coalition also prepared a preliminary report of critical issues to be presented to the Committee in November 2008. This report outlined the three main issues, which have a negative impact on the social, cultural, economic and political status of Egyptian women: a low representation of women in decision-making positions, especially in national Parliament and assemblies; discrimination against women in the Family Law Code; gender-based violence in both the private and public spheres.
Many women’s NGO’s in Egypt work constantly to improve women’s rights and access to justice. Among them are the Integrated Care Society; Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (“ECWR”); Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance; Society of Women Promotion and Development; and Forum of Organizations of Women Development. Women in Egypt suffer from discrimination in many sectors, most notably in the public sector (where women make up only 24% of the workforce) and under customary law, where women have no legal protection in the courts.
In May 2008, the ECWR reported that Egyptian and foreign women constantly suffer sexual harassment. In honor of International Women’s Day, a campaign was launched by detectives in Cairo and security officials in Giza to reveal cases of sexual harassment. A similar campaign was launched to monitor the area around Al-Monofya University and colleges in New Shibyn, where many men were caught harassing women.
In October 2008, the ECWR hosted a roundtable discussion regarding sexual harassment, during which three drafts of a new sexual harassment law were produced. Each of the laws defined sexual harassment as a legally-punishable crime and the roundtable discussion worked to develop one unified law to submit to parliament.
On February 22, 2009, Al-Sharq reported that a female member of the Egyptian parliament had submitted a draft law to amend the provision of the law on marriage documentation, in an effort to confine the spread of customary marriages. This amendment would provide punishment of imprisonment and/or a monetary fine of the married couple and their witnesses for those married under customary law.
Customary law marriage is currently considered legal under Islamic law, and simply requires a man and a woman to make an agreement on paper without registering the marriage in the courts or making it public. Many young Egyptians effectuate customary law marriages in secret to have legitimate intercourse, and older widows’ do the same in order to receive their dead husbands’ retirement salaries, which would be terminated if they officially re-married.
Unfortunately, this type of “secret” marriage often proves to be a disadvantage for the female, as she has no legal ability to make claims against her husband. The proposed draft law would protect women by making it obligatory for couples to obtain a medical certificate from a Ministry of Health agency confirming that they do not have any diseases.
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