Egyptian parliament rejects draft law regulating public manners and dress

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 19 Nov 2019

The bill would have banned women from wearing 'indecent dress' in public places and criminalised other forms of unacceptable public behaviour

Egyptian Parliament

The Egyptian parliament's legislative and constitutional affairs committee has rejected a controversial bill aimed at regulating "public conduct" by forcing people to observe Egyptian society's generally accepted code of conduct, morals, principles and identity.

The bill, which was drafted by female MP Ghada Agami, bans women from wearing “indecent dress” in public places, such as tight or revealing jeans.

The draft law was rejected on Tuesday on the grounds that it was not soundly formulated and contravenes the constitution

Chairman of the committee Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka said the law was rejected by all members of the committee at its meeting on Tuesday morning. 

"The committee members agreed that the objective of the law is not clear, the draft is vague and is not soundly formulated, in line with the rules that govern the drafting of legislation," said Abu Shoka.

"As a result, most members said they can't approve this law because it does not seek clear objectives, has no philosophy and is in violation of the constitution and the needs of Egyptian society."

"Legislation should be formulated to address fixed needs in society, a fact which the draft law on public conduct clearly lacks," said Abu Shoka, adding that "Egypt's constitution also states that personal freedoms are guaranteed and respected."

Parliament’s speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs on Tuesday morning that the law raised a lot of scepticism about morals in the Egyptian society.

"Egypt is a civilised society, has a long history in observing morals, and so there is no need these days to pass such kinds of laws," said Abdel-Aal.

“Egypt is also a major tourist destination that welcomes visitors of different nationalities as long as they do not cause harm to others," he added.

Abdel-Aal said the words "public conduct" have different meanings, and the law drafted in this respect led some to believe that it would regulate dress in public places.

"There is no power that can force people to observe public conduct," said Abdel-Aal. "During the month of Ramadan, we see that some people observe fasting, but we also see that some restaurants are open and receive citizens."

"There is also a lot of misconduct on public streets such as voicing indecent words or exchanging insults in the open, and all of these deeds are criminal, but it is quite difficult to enforce people to observe them," said Abdel-Aal.

Abdel-Aal's words came in response to Agami, who asked that her draft law be referred to the concerned committee, and not to the legislative and constitutional affairs committee.

Agami said her law aims to contain the proliferation of bad manners and misconduct on the Egyptian streets. "I reject the attacks which were directed at my draft law yesterday," said Agami.

"Two days ago, I was in the company of guests from the United Arab Emirates and America and we faced a lot of indecent behaviour by citizens, and I tried to complain but in vain."

Parliament's term expires in January 2021

Abdel-Aal also affirmed on Tuesday that the current parliament will continue holding sessions until 9 January 2021. 

 "The constitution states that parliament's life is five years, and as the existing parliament opened its first session on 9 January, 2016, it will have to close on noon of 9 January 2021," said Abdel-Aal.

According to the speaker, Egypt's 2014 constitution states in Article 106 that parliament's legislative period is five years.

"But the constitution does not state anything about how many sessions parliament should hold, and so we can hold one session or two, three, four, five, six or even seven sessions," said Abdel-Aal.

In light of the above, Abdel-Aal revealed that parliament will hold a sixth session next October.

Abdel-Aal's words mean that parliament's current – and fifth - session, which began on 1 October, will continue until next June or July, and that there will be a three-month summer recess holiday, after which parliament  will meet in a sixth session that will continue from the first week of October 2020 until 9 January 2021.

However, he was not clear when new parliamentary elections will be held. It was previously believed that parliament's life would expire in June 2020 and that new parliamentary elections would be held in the last quarter of 2020.

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