Around a hundred people protested outside the Shura Coucil building in Downtown Cairo on Wednesday demanding that the constitution, currently being amended, contain articles protecting the rights of women.
A variety of people spanning the social, economic, and political spectrums showed up to demonstrate against what they perceived as a lack of rights for the women encoded in the draft constitution. Participants at the rally ran the gamut from women in niqabs to sheikhs from Al-Azhar University. Both the Al-Dostour Party and the Social Democratic Party had a large turnout.
“Women are abused here in Egypt. This happens all the time. We are here to ask for the right of women to participate in politics,” said Iman Abdel Baset, a gynecologist who made the trip to the capital from Zagazig. “The woman is also a human being. She has a right to decide for her country. [In the current constitution] women will not have a right to participate in parliament. They say that women are weak, so men always take their places.”
The protesters generally agreed that the new constitution should have safeguards to ensure that the rights of women are represented, including quota of 30% women for the first ten years of the new parliament.
“We’re here to show the [Constituent Assembly] that our demands for the constitution…include complete equality between men and women,” said Hala Mostafa of Moqattam, a spokeswoman for the I Saw Harassment (Shoft Taharosh) initiative.
Mostafa said the constitution should have a law penalising sexual harassment, a problem that has run rampant in Egypt.
In addition to the quota, Dalia Al-Asad, a founding member of the Al-Dostour Party, demanded additional constitutional articles to protect the rights of underrepresented women and minorities.
“Our demands are not only pertaining to the quota,” said Al-Asad. “We’ve asked for articles related to education, the [legal] age of children, healthcare, and so many things, including the country’s economy.”
The Salafi Al-Nour Party, a voting member of the Constituent Assembly, has been a vocal critic of Article 11, which would guarantee gender equality. The article obliges the state to achieve gender equality and take the necessary measures to ensure women are properly and fairly represented in parliamentary and municipal councils, in a manner consistent with the laws.
“Gender equality should be restricted in a manner which doesn’t breach Islamic Sharia,” said Salah Abdel Maaboud, Al-Nour’s backup member in the Constituent Assembly, adding that the disputed article was not present in the 2012 constitution. “The 10-member legal experts’ committee pulled it out of the 1971 constitution.”