Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meanwhile, in Egypt

It is unclear whether women will be worse off or not under the new system:
Egypt is preparing for its first democratic elections this autumn, but the timetable for a transition to civilian rule remains murky, and the country is beset by unrest and insecurity. 
   Many women fear they won’t be represented or, worse, that existing rights may be taken away.
   The Constitutional Amendments Committee appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) did not include any women. 
   The interim Government formed to oversee the country during the current transitional period only has one female Minister, even though there were four in the old regime. 
   The SCAF has been criticised for cancelling the quota of female MPs, which could well mean that women will end up occupying very few seats.
   "The purpose of the revolution was to give Egyptians freedom, dignity and social justice. We don't want new dictators to control the country in the name of elections. If that happens we will object and demonstrate for women's rights and freedom," stressed Mervat. "The revolution wasn’t just for men; it was for all Egyptians."
   Meanwhile, many of the laws that Egyptian women have been fighting to implement for the past 30 years are now under threat. 
   These laws include Law 1 of 2000, otherwise known as the Khula’ Law, which acts as an alternative for women whose husbands refuse to grant them divorce. Through this law, the court grants a woman a divorce, as long as she returns the dowry paid by her husband prior to the marriage.
   Women also object to amendments made to several articles in Egypt’s Personal Affairs Law. 
   These amendments include changes made to the Custody Law 25 of 1929, amended by Law 4 of 2005, which gave divorced mothers the right to keep their children until the age of 15, instead of ten for a son and 12 for a daughter, as was previously the case.
   The amendments also covered two articles in the Childhood Law, one of them being Article 31, which raises the age of marriage to 18.
   After burning down the National Council for Women's Rights during the revolution, some men began demanding that the Government revise all laws related to marriage, divorce, and even child custody and visitation. 
   Protesters claimed that most women's rights were only designed to please the wife of ex-president Mubarak.
   These protesters misinterpret Islam if they think that women are inferior to men. According to their misinterpretation, they deny women the right to judge or rule. 
There is real concern that Egyptian women, who have fought so hard for rights and equality, are losing what they have gained and the opportunity of tomorrow.

The French Revolution is a useful reminder here. Women participated in it and ended up losing many of their rights with the Napoleonic Code.

It is not that revolutions would be inherently opposed to women's rights. But violent times are bad for women's rights, because other demands are made with much greater threats. And religious revolutions are bad news for women, because fanatically religious revolutionary fighters are conservative and tend to demand the subjugation of women.