- President Mohamed Morsi's Constitutional Decree - December 9, 2012 (Arabic) (English)
- Final Draft of Constitution, published November 29, 2012 (Arabic) (English) (Audio)
- President Mohamed Morsi's Constitutional Decree - November 22, 2012 (Arabic) (English)
- Draft of the Constitution, published October 24, 2012) (Arabic)
- Draft of the Constitution, published October 16, 2012 (Arabic) (English)
- President Mohamed Morsi's Decree Pardoning January 25 Prisoners - October 8 (English) (Arabic)
- President Mohamed Morsi's Constitutional Declaration - August 12 (English) (Arabic)
- President Mohamed Morsi’s Decree reinstating the dissolved parliament – July 8 (English) (Arabic)
- Renaissance (Nahda) Project (English)
- Morsi Meter (English) (Arabic)
- SCAF Amendments to Interim Constitution - June 17, 2012 (English) (Arabic)
- Interim Constitution (full text, English and Arabic), ratified by popular referendum on March 23, 2011)
- Law on the Presidential Election, No. 174, 2005 (Arabic)
- Electoral laws for the People’s Assembly and Shura Council (full text, Arabic, amended July 19, 2011)
- Law on Non-Governmental Organizations, No. 84/2002 (English)
- Law on the People’s Assembly, amended October 2011 (PDF, Arabic)
- Supra-Constitutional Principles (English) (Arabic)
- The Final Draft Wording of the Articles on Defense and National Security in the New Constitution (English) (Arabic)
- Leaked Articles of the Draft Constitution (English)
Egyptian Government Resources
- Official Facebook page of President Mohamed Morsi (Arabic)
- Official Facebook page of Prime Minister Hesham Qandil (Arabic)
- Official Facebook page of Presidential Spokesman Yasser Ali (Arabic)
- Official Facebook page of the Supreme Council of the Armed forces (Arabic)
- Official website of the Cabinet (English) (Arabic)
- Ministry of Interior (English) (Arabic)
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs (English) (Arabic)
- Ministry of Finance (English) (Arabic)
- Ministry of International Cooperation (Arabic)
- Ministry of Social Solidarity (Arabic)
- Ministry of Information (Arabic)
- Ministry of Industry & Foreign Trade (English) (Arabic)
- Ahram Weekly (English)
- Egypt Independent (English)
- Daily News Egypt (English)
- Ahram Online (English)
- Akhbar al-Youm (Arabic)
- Ahram (Arabic)
- Ahram Gateway (Arabic)
- al-Masry al-Youm (Arabic)
- al-Shorouk (Arabic)
- al-Wafd (Arabic)
- Masrawy (Arabic)
- EGYNews (Arabic)
Think Tanks and NGOs:
- al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (English)
- Arab Forum for Alternatives (English) (Arabic)
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (English) (Arabic)
- Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (English) (Arabic)
- Adl (Justice)
- al-Asala (Authenticity)
- Building and Development
- Democratic Front
- al-Dostour (Constitution)
- Freedom and Justice
- Ghad (Tomorrow)
- Ittihad (Union)
- Karama (Dignity)
- al-Masriyin al-Ahrar (Free Egyptians)
- Masr al-Hurriya (Egypt Freedom)
- Nour (Light)
- Popular Alliance
- Reform and Development
- Social Democratic
- Sufi Liberation
- al-Tayar al-Masry (Egyptian Current)
With a draft of the Rights and Freedoms chapter in Egypt’s constitution published last week, rights groups and political movements have expressed concern over the limitations the new constitution may impose on Egyptian citizens, particularly its women. One of their main concerns is the vague and ambiguous wording that plagues the draft constitution, an ambiguity which could easily be manipulated to serve specific purposes.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) published a response to the draft articles, and in it, commended the addition of articles that guarantee economic and social rights that were ignored in Egypt’s previous constitutions. ANHRI did however express concern over other aspects in the draft saying that in some cases the wording would actually allow authorities to restrict rights and criticized what it described as “clear” Islamist leanings. As far as women’s rights are concerned, the changes made seem cosmetic at best, and detrimental at their worst.
Women’s rights have been a hot button issue since the Constituent Assembly began its work, particularly in regard to Article 29 which prohibits the forced labor, slavery and trafficking of women and children, all of which are criminalized by the sex trade law. Article 29 has made headlines with conservative Salafi members of the Constituent Assembly calling for it to be removed entirely on the pretext that it “undermines modesty.” Despite these vocal calls, pressure to remove the clause has been largely ignored.
In the far more contentious Article 36, which addresses women’s rights and equality, little has changed in comparison to the 1971 Constitution. The clause reads: “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 violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence."
The article’s 1971 predecessors reads: "The State shall guarantee harmonization between the duties of woman towards the family and her work in the society, ensuring her equal status with man in fields of political, social, cultural and economic life without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence.”
The main cause for concern comes from the ambiguous final sentence which remains the same, and which several secular political movements have decried, saying that the wording “endangers the democracy that everyone aspired for and sacrificed for.”
Additionally, while the new clause places the responsibility of women’s rights in the hands of the state, women are still in exactly the same position as they were with the 1971 constitution, not only because of the adherence to Islamic law, but also since it says that the state will guarantee women's rights, while giving no details on how the it will set about to do so.
The new article, which has been described as inconsistent with international covenants and agreements that Egypt signed, is open to interpretation and with various Islamic schools of thought, could easily result in a lack of equality for Egypt’s women.
A statement signed by various political parties, unions, feminist groups and public figures in Egypt reads:
“We affirm that we do not object to God’s laws or to the provisions of the Islamic Sharia. However, we object to this clause because the lack of consensus among Muslim scholars on a unified interpretation of Sharia law opens the door for multiple interpretations, some of which could curtail civil rights and liberties.”
The ANHRI statement adds that without specifying actual areas of restriction, the wording once again opens the door to manipulation, and could also potentially have an adverse effect on non-Muslims who could be deprived of their rights “in accordance with a law they do not believe in.”
The constitution is the very first step in giving women’s rights in Egypt a real foundation upon which to build. The Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance (CEWLA) recently published a short video showcasing what women are anticipating from Egypt’s constitution, with several of them decrying the utter lack of representation in the drafting assembly. Many issues that were raised by these women appear to have had no place in the Constituent Assembly’s discussions, with activist Manal al-Tibi withdrawing from what she described as an Islamist-dominated process.
Boycotts, protests and petitions have done little to alter the course of the draft constitution, with religion a complex and integral part of much of the conflict. Women’s rights will always be embroiled in that discussion, as it becomes near impossible to separate the two. Unless inroads are made toward a truly secular constitution, or at least toward an explicit definition of Islamic law, equality for women will continue to be one of the many casualties along the way.
Photo Credit: EPA
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EgyptSource, a project of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, follows Egypt’s transition and provides a platform for Egyptian perspectives on the major issues – economic, political, legal, religious and human rights – that are at stake in the post-Mubarak era.
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About the Contributors
Alaa Al Aswany, the Arab world's bestselling novelist, is the author of The Yacoubian Building, Chicago, and Friendly Fire. His work is published in thirty-one languages worldwide. Read his EgyptSource posts here.
Yussef Auf is an Egyptian judge and 2012 Humphrey Fellow at American University’s Washington College of Law. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Constitutional Law and Political Systems at Cairo University. Read his EgyptSource posts here.
Amr Hamzawy joined the Department of Public Policy and Administration at the American University in Cairo in 2011, where he continues to serve today. He is a former member of parliament and a member of the National Salvation Front. Read his EgyptSource posts here.
Haitham Tabei is a special correspondent for the Washington Post and Asharq Saudi newspaper in Cairo.
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