Inas Mekkawie is angry, apprehensive, indeed almost scared. As the founder of the nearly one-year-old women’s rights organisation Bahiya ya Masr, she feels that, in the grand scheme of Egyptian politics, women are being reduced to sex objects; she is concerned that rights won with difficulty over decades will be revoked while society is busy with other matters: “some,” she says, “legitimate and pressing; others of limited if any significance”.
The attack on women’s rights, she feels, predates the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and the election of President Mohamed Morsi. It started in the early days of the transitional period when SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) took over running the country after Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down.
“Today”, argues Mekkawie, “the attack takes on a ferocious tone with the attempt to include in the constitution language that can have dire implications for women’s rights.”
On Tuesday, at six pm, Mekkawie along with other activists went for a short sit-in outside parliament where the constitutional assembly was convened. “Like Mohamed, like Fatemah,” shouted the protesters, demanding equal rights for men and women. “Women should have 50 per cent of the committee.”
The sit-in was specifically designed to protest the proposed drafts of Articles 36 and 29. Article 36, which comes under the chapter of Rights and Liberties, stipulates that the state is responsible for making necessary deliberations to secure equality between men and women; the added phrase is “so long as this does not contradict the rules of Islamic sharia”.
This is the only reference to “rules” as opposed to “principles” of Islamic sharia, which are specifically referred to in the much talked about Article 2 of the constitution as “the main source of legislation”. The “rules of Islamic sharia”, as Mekkawie points out, are not agreed upon and follow different interpretations; the use of this phrase in this article alone therefore does not bode well for the future of women in Egyptian society.
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