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Egyptian Women Celebrate Int'l Woman Day Amid Violated Rights
Published in Albawaba on 08 - 03 - 2016

Written by Alaa Awad, Ahmed Mamdouh, Mohamed Sameh and Yara Sameh
Feminist Movement in Egypt
The first feminist movement took place in Egypt, between the years of 1923 and 1939. The movement struggled to ensure women's rights in education, employment, freedom of expression, equal salaries to those of men, and reform laws so that they can protect and guarantee women's rights in a way that offers equality between men and women, and the right to hold vital state positions.
As such, a number of feminist movements, groups, parties, organizations and associations have emerged in Egypt to advocate for gender equality and protect women's rights, like the Egyptian Feminist Union (EFU), Egyptian Feminist party, Bint El Nil-Association (Daughter of Nile), New Woman Foundation, Committee for the Defense of Women and Family Rights, Progressive Women's Union, Women's Secretariat of the Labor party, New Woman Research Centre, Bint El-Ard association (Daughter of Land), and National Council for Women (NCW).
Also, magazines and books that speak out for women's rights have been issued in Egypt, such as L'Egyptienne magazine, El-Masreyyah or (The Egyptian Woman) magazine, Women and Sex book by prominent feminist activist and writer, Nawal El-Saadawi.
Women's struggle for their rights and freedom was led by several prominent feminist leaders and activists, such as El-Saadawi, Fatma Neamat Rashed, Huda Shaarawi, Nabawiyya Musa, Malak Hifni Nasif, Ceza Nabarwi and Doria Shafik.
Feminism in Egypt gained some success, as the 1956 constitution opened the door for women to acquire significant equal rights to men in education and employment, as well as the right to vote and run for elections. In 2000, legislation was approved to permit women to divorce men under Al-Khul'a law.
Meanwhile, in 2003, Tahani al-Gebali was appointed by former president, Hosni Mubarak as the vice president of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt, thus becoming the first woman to be handed a judiciary position in Egypt. Al-Gebali made sure that at least 32 other women assumed several judicial positions in 2007.
Also, in 2004, legislation was approved to permit women to hand over their citizenship to their biological children. In 2008, the Egyptian government approved a law restricting female genital mutilation (FGM), which el-Saadawi fought against.
That law was passed, after the death of the 12-year-old Badour Shaker during an operation in June 2007, of which el-Saadawi said: "When I heard that she died, I wrote an open letter to her parents, saying they should not be silent – they should scream so all the world would hear their voice. They should use the death to educate everybody."
El-Saadawi's long struggle for women's rights has awarded her honorary prizes in three different continents, as she won the North-South prize in 2004 from the Council of Europe. In 2005, she won the Inana International Prize in Belgium and the International Peace Bureau awarded her with the 2012 Séan MacBride Peace Prize in 2012. She was also nominated for a Nobel Literature Prize in 2012.
This kind of success for feminism in Egypt encourages many other women to take part in the struggle for their rights, as it highlights that determination and perseverance, no matter how long it took, will bear fruits in the end.
However, this deserved success reflects the important role of women in changing society's beliefs and customs to the better, and in shaping up the future of the country, as well. But, nonetheless, the struggle for women's rights continues, as their rights have not yet been fully given, which only makes them more resilient than ever.
Egyptian Women in Political Life
Women presence in the Egyptian political life was remarkable in a number of historic events as they participated strongly in 1919 revolution under the leadership of activist, Safiya Zaghloul to demand their rights in education until the university stage as well as allowing them to engage in political life and their right to form political parties.
After that period, Egyptian women role in the political life was not strong as they did not take their full rights in practicing politics due to the lack of the community's proper culture toward women in a number of issues not only in politics.
During the beginning of the 21st century, Egyptian women began to appear again in the Egyptian political scene as they participated in a number of protests against former president Mohamed Hosni Mobarak's regime and joined a number of political movements such as Egyptian Movement for Change (Kefaya) and 6th of April Youth Movement.
On January 25, 2011 revolution, women confirmed their presence in the country's political scene as they contributed to its success and a number of them paid their lives in order to achieve their goal.
After the revolution, the role of women in the political scene had been escalated as they became an audible power in the Egyptian street.
Egyptian women also made a huge contribution to the success of June 30, 2013 revolution against the rule of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as they participated in a number of campaigns and movements such as Rebel movement that aimed to withdraw confidence from President Mohamed Morsi.
After June 30 revolution, Egypt witnessed the election of the first woman to head a political party. Hala Shukrallah was elected as the Constitution Party president in February 2014.
In 2015 parliamentary elections which was Egypt's roadmap last step, women succeeded to get 87 seats in the parliament, which is considered the greatest number to represent women in the Egyptian Parliament ever.
Women in the Middle East still suffer
Not every fair lady enjoys her rights
Middle Eastern women don't maintain half the rights of the western women. In fact, the Iranian legislation doesn't accord the same rights to women as to men in all areas of the law, for example, the Iranian woman needs her husband's permission to work outside the home or leave the country or in wages, a man can have a higher salary than a woman's because of being of different gender.
While these kinds of human rights issues exist in some Middle East nations it doesn't exist in others.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also sometimes referred to as female genital cutting or female circumcision, is the procedure of removing a part or the total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, and is considered to be a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
Statistics show that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated, and is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15.
This is an issue that the Egyptian women are divided into half on between these who experienced this nasty habit and tradition and those who want to apply on their kids while the other half of the Egyptian women choose to fight against it andraise awareness of this so-called tradition, but the dark fact is that FGM isn't a tradition.
Sexual harassment and severe violations
In the case of rape, Arabian women don't face the bright side of the law, in fact, she becomes the reason that act was performed.
A rich example of that dark side is when the Egyptian TV presenter Reham Saeed hosted the sexual assault victim, Shaima al-Mahlawi and accused her for driving the attacker to sexually harass her. Saeed has violated the privacy of Al-Mahlawy and opened her phone and spread her mobile's most private pictures.
The law in Egypt punishes rapists by sending them to life imprisonment (25 years), while sexual harassment's punishment ranges from six months to five years in addition to a fine up to EGP 50,000.
Egyptian women are being harassed on a daily basis, sexually or verbally, and it happens in transportation, metro, malls and everywhere. Every Eid, dozens of Egyptian girls are harassed. This phenomena had spread during 2014 and lately it seems to have decreased.
Statistics show that almost 99.3% of women subjected to either verbal or physical sexual harassment in 2015, while conducted studies in the field of gender show that Egyptian women face much worse compared to other Arab countries, in sexual harassment and FGM.
While in America, for example, Amnesty International issued a report entitled "Stop Violence against Women" in 2004 revealed that every 90 seconds a woman is raped there.
In December 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the elimination of female genital mutilation.
Gender based violence
Gender based violence or domestic violence in Middle East nations while there are seminars and lectures to raise awareness against that violence there are not laws that help women or protect them in a proper way.
But Middle Eastern women have found a way to protect themselves by taking self-defense lessons.
Job opportunities
In the Middle East, women don't have the same opportunities men have and in addition, some businesses refuse to hire women who have children because of the need to work for long hours and sometimes have tasks out of the country and on occasion work non-working hours, which in turn cause some women to postpone motherhood.
Social but equally Important Issues
Women in the Middle East face social but equally important difficulties that can hinder their happiness, which had effect on her in other factors, such as polygamy not marrying the one they love or being married to be used as machines whose sole purpose is to deliver children.
Honor Killing
Honor killing is a crime found in the Middle East or by those who have Middle Eastern ethnicity.
That crime occurs when a parent, sibling, someone with blood relation or the husband or fiancee kill the victim for dishonoring the family and bringing shame to them and the only way to bring that honor back is by killing the victim, most times than not the victim is innocent.
According to Honor Based Violence Awareness Network (HBVA), there are 5,000 honor killings internationally per year.

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