Egypt's parliament to discuss two laws regulating 'public conduct' and 'fighting rumours'

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 18 Nov 2019

The “public conduct” law, which was sharply criticised by Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, bans women from wearing revealing jeans in public places

A file photo of Egypt's Parliament (Photo: Reuters)

A controversial law aimed at regulating “public conduct and morals” was referred to parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Monday morning.

The 10-article law, drafted by MP Ghada Agami, seeks to make citizens abide by “Egyptian society’s generally accepted code of conduct, morals, principles and identity,” as stated in the constitution.

Agami had previously stirred up heated controversy when she drafted a law banning women from wearing the niqab, or full face veil, in government institutions. She had to withdraw the draft after facing a barrage of criticism.

Agami said all citizens shall abide by that law whenever they go to public places, such as markets, cinemas, theatres, shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, playgrounds, clubs, roads, beaches, public means of transport, and exhibitions, etc.

“Article 3 states that when citizens go to such public places, they should observe Egypt’s code of values, habits, traditions and existing culture,” said the draft, adding that “for example, it is against society’s morals that women wear tight or revealing jeans in public places.”

Article 4 stipulates that while going out in public places, citizens shall not wear indecent attire, or clothes bearing pictures, marks, signals or statements that might cause harm to society’s code of conduct.

Article 5 bans people in public places from writing or drawing on walls or on public means of transport, unless they are licensed to.

Article 6 prohibits people in public places from causing harm, danger or fear to others in the form of deeds or verbal attacks. 

Article 7 entrusts the interior ministry, in coordination with other concerned ministries, with implementing the law and its executive regulations. The Ministry of Interior shall also be granted the right to task licensed private security companies with implementing the law.

Articles 8,9 and 10 state that violators of the law shall face hefty financial fines, and that they shall have the right to appeal before the court.

Agami's draft law resulted in controversy among MPs who said it violated Egypt’s 2014 constitution. Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said it was very difficult to discuss a law aimed at regulating “public conduct and morals.” 

“It is quite clear that those who signed in favour of this draft law (60 MPs) did not read it carefully because it is not the state’s role to intervene in the personal affairs of citizens,” said Abdel-Aal, arguing that “the words 'public conduct' can’t be regulated at all by a law because people differ in viewing how public conduct should be, some might see a certain conduct a good thing, and others a bad thing.”

Mohamed Abu Hamed, an independent MP, said the law contravened the constitution which stated that citizens are free to dress as they wish and enjoy freedoms in other personal affairs. “Not to mention that this law might scare foreign tourists away from coming to Egypt,” said Abu Hamed.

In response, Abdel-Aal said though he was against the law, he had no choice but to refer it to the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee to study it. “As MPs have the right to draft legislation, I have no choice but to refer this draft law to the concerned committee,” he said.

Another law aimed at “fighting malicious rumours” was also referred by Abdel-Aal on Monday to the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee. The law was drafted by Soliman Wahdan, deputy parliament speaker and a member of the Wafd Party.

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