Since the beginning of this year, the National Council for Women has continually been brought into question by political forces seeking to denounce its legitimacy as a viable organization, generally due to its ties with the now-dissolved National Democratic Party and its association with a bundle of laws deemed un-Islamic by the emerging Islamist authorities.
The council — established under presidential decree in 2000 by Hosni Mubarak and consequently spearheaded by his wife Suzanne — was initially formed with the aim of raising the profile of and empowering Egyptian women.
However, just after 2012 kicked off, a lawsuit was filed demanding that it be dissolved and reformed as an elected body that “truly represents Egyptian women and seeks to empower them.”
In response, a decree for reforming the council was issued by Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, which resulted in the appointment of 30 new members by the ruling military council. Former Social Affairs Minister Mervat al-Talawy replaced the council’s head, Farkhonda Hassan, who is known for her strong ties to the ex-first lady.
Women’s rights activists and parliamentary figures, among others, have responded to the reform and appointment process negatively for various reasons.
Both believe the military’s appointment process to be wholly illegitimate, particularly as many of the newly appointed figures are said to also be associates of the old regime. Some activists also contend that the council continues to serve only as a means to portray its members in a positive light — as advocates of women’s rights — which was often believed to be the case during the Mubarak era.
Indeed, shortly after the appointment process, novelist Radwa Ashour, who was listed as one of the 30 new members, was quoted in the media as saying that no one had addressed her personally and that she refuses to be part of the council.
[Excerpt—See accompanying URL for full original text]