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Code of honour
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 06 - 12 - 2016

The National Council for Women (NCW) has released details of a new law which addresses violence against women. The draft consists of 40 articles including three chapters. The first defines the different forms of violence women can be subjected to: denial of inheritance, circumcision, trafficking, forced marriage and the improper use of women's bodies in advertising.
The second chapter is expected to define different forms of sexual violence or harassment. This will also include provisions to ensure the perpetrator of the crime is severely punished. It will include the possibility of the death penalty, according to the circumstances of the case and the number of perpetrators.
The third chapter will contain provisions for the necessary efforts to be undertaken by the state to encourage the victim to report the incident. This includes protection for the victim, the witnesses and the experts who can prove the crime, as well as the provision of any necessary rehabilitation services. It is also responsible for keeping all the information it attains confidential to protect the victim's identity. The proposed law also incriminates those who deprive women of work, equal wages and equal promotion opportunities.
The draft law states that the government is tasked with protecting the victims, as well as supporting and encouraging civil society organisations which aim at raising awareness of violence and providing them with legal advocacy.
Maya Morsi, NCW secretary-general, said there was a "dire need" to develop a code of honour for women in Egypt which defines a basic framework for the advancement of women's role in society. "The protection of women against violence as well as the development of their skills, investment capacity, poverty reduction, providing legal and social protection and the political and social empowerment of women are essential demands for women," Morsi said.
"The new draft law covers all types of violence against women in the public and work domain from verbal harassment to assault," Morsi explained, adding that the penalty system as well as services for victims of violence have been incorporated.
As the NCW awaits a response from the government regarding the implementation of the new law, Morsi stresses that, although the law is paramount, it is not a solution on its own. "It is important to remember that the law is not everything. Education is key, as well as training police, good reporting, strong attorneys and implementation of the law at the civil level," Morsi explains.
In this regard the council has held a series of workshops to prepare judges for combating violence against women. The workshops act as a comprehensive nationwide training programme targeting judges of both genders, with the aim of further enhancing their capacity in dealing with cases of all forms of violence against women. Thirty-seven judges 13 women and 24 men from several governorates participated in the workshops which aim to enhance justice systems to better combat violence against women through supporting judiciary members.
According to a recent study conducted by National Population Centre (NPC), violence committed against women has been normalised in Egyptian society for various reasons. Nearly 86 per cent of the women surveyed thought that husbands were justified in beating their wives under certain circumstances. Almost 70 per cent of the women surveyed between the ages of 15 and 49 felt that husbands were justified in beating wives who refused sex. Nearly 69 per cent of women between the ages of 20 and 29 believed that violence was justified if a woman talked back to her husband; 63 per cent said a beating was justified for talking to another man; 42 per cent for spending too much money; 28 per cent for burning dinner; and 50 per cent for neglecting the children. Although these figures are high, they are perhaps not surprising.
Amal Sedk Winter, a professor at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and an advocate for women's rights, said many women have become used to tolerating violence because they have witnessed their parents committing violence, so they are passing it on to their off-spring. Section 60 of the Criminal Code stipulates that "the provisions of the penal code shall not apply to any deed committed in good faith, pursuant to a right determined by virtue of Sharia". This law, applying to any act of violence committed in “good faith” has been used to justify domestic violence.
Winter believes that the government must seriously address the issue of violence against women and take effective measures to prevent violence committed at home, work and public places. She said the government must also amend current family laws to guarantee that laws against violence, including beating, sexual assault and all gender based abuse, provide adequate protection to women and pass suitable penalties for the perpetrator in order to respect women's integrity and dignity.


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