Women's Rights Slipping Away in the Aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution

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23 July 2011
Contact: NAIROBI: Mary Ciugu, (254) 20 271-9832/913, equalitynownairobi@equalitynow.org
NEW YORK: Karen Asare, (01) 212-586-0906
LONDON: Jacqui Hunt, (44) (0) 20-7839-5456

Composing half of the nation’s population, Egyptian women constituted a major force in the 2011 Revolution; however, though more than half of the ministers were replaced in the cabinet that was announced yesterday, none of the new additions are female.  Therefore female representation in the newly-formed Egyptian cabinet is limited to just one woman.  This follows the disturbing news this week that the transitional government rejected continuing with an existing quota of women’s seats in Parliament, something which may prove critically disadvantageous to women in the national elections to be held later this year.  Meaningful representation of women in the government is necessary for the protection and promotion of women’s rights and the development of a democratic society.  “Women are now shocked and worried about what the post-revolution days have in store for us,” says Azza Sulieman, director of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA).  “It seems likely that we may even lose the rights we had before the revolution.”

On January 25, 2011, Egyptian citizens embarked on a daring and ultimately successful revolution against the authoritative regime of President Hosni Mubarak.  The women of Egypt were a driving force of the revolution - setting up barricades, leading debates, and risking their lives.  Yet, in post-revolutionary Egypt, women have been excluded from the government, including the constitutional drafting committee, and from effectively participating in the political life of the country.

In June 2011, the Alliance for Arab Women held a meeting with over 3,000 Egyptian women which produced the Egyptian Women’s Charter.  The Charter, signed by 500,000 groups and individuals is a comprehensive list of demands to ensure that women’s rights and concerns are integrated in all post-revolution frameworks and institutions.  In support of these demands, at the beginning of July, Equality Now and its partners launched a campaign urging the authorities to ensure that 30% of electoral lists are comprised of women; women are represented on the constitutional committee; 40% of ministerial posts go to women; discriminatory legislation is reviewed and revised; and women have equal access to the same employment and business opportunities as men.  Despite massive public support for the Charter, the transitional government has done nothing to address these demands.

“History has shown that even where women are integrally involved in revolutions, they and their specific needs are sidelined in the new regime in deference to ‘nation-building’,” says Faiza Mohamed, Nairobi office Director of Equality Now.  “Egypt can and should forge a new path, incorporating women equally from the beginning as a strong signal that women are equal and valued members of their nation.”  The organization called upon the transitional government to heed the voices of Egyptian women, and those supporting the Egyptian Women’s Charter, to ensure women fair representation in the governance of their country.

Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world.  Equality Now’s Women’s Action Network comprises 35,000 groups and individual members in over 160 countries.  For more information please visit www.equalitynow.org.

July 23, 2011 - 10:45