Egypt's 2014 constitution gave women “unprecedented rights,” granting 89 parliamentary seats to female MPs and allocating 25 percent of local seats to women in municipal elections, social solidarity minister Ghada Waly said at the International Women’s Forum in Stockholm on Saturday.
The minister said that Egypt has also recently seen the passing of positive legislation on women's issues, including increasing penalties for sexual harassment and female genital mutilation (FGM) as well as adopting policies that foster financial empowerment for women, according to Ahram's Arabic website.
In August 2016, Egypt’s parliament passed a bill raising the designation of FGM from a misdemeanour to a felony.
In January 2017, an Egyptian legislative parliamentary committee approved a draft bill toughening penalties on sexual harassment -- an endemic problem in Egypt -- including jail terms of one year instead of the previous six months.
Around 7.8 million Egyptian women suffered from violence in 2015, either at the hands of their husband, fiancé, family or strangers, putting the statistics of gender-based violence in Egypt in both private and public places at 30.4% annually, according to the latest official estimates by Egypt's Economic Cost of Gender Based Violence Survey (ECGBVS), published in June 2016.
“Culture is stronger than legislation, and the culture doesn’t change except with education and economic, social and political empowerment for girls,” Waly said at the forum, attended by 735 prominent female figures from 40 different countries.
Egypt's current parliament has the highest number of women in the country's modern history, with 89 female MPs elected in 2015, representing 15 percent of MPs in accordance with the electoral law.
According to Article 180 of the constitution, a quota of "one quarter of the seats" on local councils are to be allocated for women.
Egypt ranks 132 out of 144 countries in gender equality, making it among the 20 bottom countries globally, according to the Global Gender Gap report 2016 published by the World Economic Forum.
However, it has progressed from the 136th out of 142 countries in the Global Gender Gap report 2015, particularly on the political threshold.
Established in 1974, the International Women’s Forum is a unique organisation comprised of more than 6,500 women leaders in 35 countries and 76 forums around the world.