With the on-going fight for democracy in Egypt, one would think that the fight to improve women’s rights would have produced more concrete results. Instead, it may be suggested that since the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, such progress has been derailed. Women, who played a key role in helping to overthrow the Mubarak’s despotic government in the belief that they were standing up for change, stand overlooked by their own government. Excluded from the reform process and targeted by the authorities, the women of Egypt are paying a very high price in their demand for equal rights and a democratic government. It goes without saying that the fight for women’s rights is long from over.

Since 2011, attacks against women in Egypt have reached epidemic levels. In the week of the former President Morsi’s ousting from office by the Egyptian people, over 150 cases were reported; the level of violence surrounding such attacks are of an extreme and grotesque level. In January of this year, it was reported that two young girls were raped with knives. According to testimonies from protesters at Tahrir Square, both male and female, women and girls have been targeted by groups of men; mauled, beaten and raped. Some have suggested that given the speed and efficiency of the attacks, that they have been premeditated, perhaps organized by political factions, so to discourage further women’s participation in protests and movements against the authorities. However, though the majority of such attacks have been concentrated in Tahrir Square and smeared with political motivation, there have also been reports documenting it to happen outside of a political context.

Despite the fact that Egypt is part of various organizations whose aim is to prevent the abuse and violation of women’s human rights such as, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Since the revolution in 2011, the situation for women has deteriorated even further. In recent years, the violation of women’s rights has intensified, with women being subjected repression, sexual violence and forced ‘virginity tests’ by the very people sworn to protect their rights. Promises of laws and initiatives to protect women’s rights have been ignored, with neither domestic violence, nor marital rape being criminalised.

Not to mention, the constitution framed by Morsi and his colleagues, that was adopted in December 2012, failed to include anything significant in realm of protecting women’s rights. Though the constitution does state that ‘citizens are equal before the law and are equal in general rights and duties without discrimination between them based on gender, origin, language, religion, belief, opinion, social status or disability’. The Muslim Brotherhood also stated, in March of this year, that all Muslim countries should reject the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women draft for women’s rights because it contradicted Sharia Law. Hence, the idea that life for women Post-Morsi will worsen on the grounds that Morsi would have been key to kick-starting the process of change, seems preposterous. Life for women in Egypt Post-Morsi will worsen because with the likes of Adly Mansour as the current interim president of Egypt, old interests remain. Nothing has changed. The issue therefore regarding women’s rights in Egypt appears to be deep-seated.

In light of this, it may be argued that if something drastic and definitive is not done in favour of women’s rights in Egypt soon, it may be suggested that the on-going revolution will be fruitless. It’s not a democracy if there are no equal rights.

by Wiktoria Schulz

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