By Emily Crane
Dr Pakinam Al-Sharkawi, Special Assistant of the President for Political Affairs, addressed the 57th UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York on Monday, describing the active role the Egyptian government has taken to defend women’s rights and combat violence against them since the revolution.
“The Egyptian Government attaches great importance to combatting all forms of … violence and is currently working on addressing this phenomenon through various measures,” Al-Sharkawi said.
She added that such measures include the drafting of new laws defining and criminalising all forms of violence against women and girls, and improving security.
“The 2012 Constitution of Egypt underlines the rights of women, and stresses that they are full-fledged citizens,” Al-Sharkawi said. “This new framework enables Egyptian women to gain more political and intellectual independence.”
Mervat Tallawy, President of the Egyptian National Council for Women, criticised the constitution in a paper she submitted to the CSW, stating that “the new constitution ignored the basic rights of women politically, socially and economically”.
In this paper, Tallawy outlined a number of ways Egyptian women have been marginalised in the major decision-making processes since the revolution and addressed the growing problem of violence against women protesters, calling it “a new political weapon … to assault them and frighten them from taking part in demonstrations”.
Tallawy is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion on the prevention of violence against women and girls at the CSW.
In February, several members of the Shura Council said that the bulk of the blame for such violence should be placed on women themselves.
“A woman who joins protests among thugs and street inhabitants should protect herself before asking the Ministry of Interior to offer her protection,” said Adel Afifi, a member of the Al-Asala Salafi party. “Women sometimes cause rape upon themselves through putting themselves in a position which makes them subject to rape.”
In her address, Al-Sharkawi called for continued cooperation between state institutions and society to address the root causes of the problem of violence against women.
“But most importantly, we must give due attention to the family as it constitutes the most effective tool in successfully ending violence against women,” Al-Sharkawi said.
Al-Sharkawi expressed the importance the Egyptian delegation places on alleviating the suffering of Arab women, particularly in Syria and Palestine, urging the Commission “take into account the diversity of cultures and beliefs, without attempts to impose concepts or definitions that are not agreed upon”.