Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Sunday the government is keen to see that a long-awaited new personal status law will be “balanced,” and “serve the public’s interest.”
In a speech during a ceremony to honour Egyptian women on the occasion of Mother’s Day, El-Sisi said that “the state is keen to see that the law is balanced for everyone…for the mother and the father.”
“We will hear from everyone through a societal dialogue in order for the law to meet all demands and serve the public’s interest,” he said.
The president’s statements came amid a controversy stirred by several parts of the draft bill for a new Personal Status Law, which regulates marriage, divorce, and guardianship and custody issues.
In late February, the speaker of the House of Representatives sent the draft bill, which was prepared by the cabinet, to a joint parliamentary committee for review.
Last week, an online campaign was launched under a hashtag “guardianship is my right” where many women shared personal stories on how the current personal status law obstructed their right in making decisions for themselves and their children without the approval of a male guardian.
“However, the law is not everything,” El-Sisi said, as he stressed the necessity of maintaining a suitable climate for children in the case their parents are separated.
During his speech, the president thanked the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, for the religious institution’s contribution to the draft bill for a new personal status law.
El-Sisi urged the parliament to pass a separate law that would ban the wide-spread phenomenon of child marriage.
The president’s spouse, Intissar El-Sisi, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, a number of MPs, and other public officials attended the ceremony.
During the event, the President recognised the achievements of the “Exemplary Mother of the Year” from various governorates.
Renowned Egyptian singer Ali El-Haggar opened the celebration with a new song titled ‘A Mother’s Prayer’, extolling the sacrifices made by mothers in raising children.
Mother’s Day is celebrated in Egypt on 21 March of each year.
At the start of the event, El-Sisi and the attendance watched several short documentaries, including one titled ‘The Tree of the Future’, on the journey of Egyptian mothers and their role in society.
The Tree of The Future documentary tackled several awareness initiatives to advance women’s rights, including nationwide campaigns against female genital mutilation (FGM), awareness on the importance of women voting, and their constitutional rights.
Measures to support women
El-Sisi said during his speech that the state’s ongoing efforts to relocate citizens from slum areas to safe residential housing projects in several designated areas nationwide aim, among other goals, to create a safe living environment for women.
He also asked state bodies to ensure the implementation of the utmost safety measures for women in public transportation.
The president announced during the speech that the cost of implementing the Decent Life initiative might be higher than initially estimated.
The initiative, launched by El-Sisi in early 2019, aims to provide better living conditions for 1,500 of the neediest rural villages in Egypt.
“We found that we needed to up the initiative. We previously set EGP 150 billion to develop 100,000 units in 1,500 villages. But now, we might need more than EGP 200 billion to upgrade the units,” he said.
El-Sisi also said the number of Gharemat, poor women who are imprisoned for defaulting on personal debts, is increasing despite initiatives by the state to lower the phenomenon.
On fighting the coronavirus pandemic, El-Sisi urged citizens to adhere to preventive measures, as the country is potentially nearing its third wave of the virus.
“We hope we can overcome this, but we have to abide by preventive measures, especially with the holy month of Ramadan approaching and large gatherings expected,” he said.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi stands next to a young girl during the ceremony after she asked for his meeting (Photo Ahram)
Political and economic rights
Maya Morsy, the head of the National Council for Women (NCW), and Nevine El-Qabbaj, the social solidarity minister, spoke at the event.
Morsy said that “the political will of the president guaranteed for women all their social and political rights.”
She explained that the NCW’s efforts to provide support to Egyptian women reached 29 million women in 2020, despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic.
Morsy highlighted her pride in seeing tens of female members of the Senate and the House of Representatives attend the ceremony today.
She explained that Egypt now ranks 66th in the representation of women in parliamentary bodies globally, up from 135 in the recent past.
She also praised a recent move by judicial bodies to allow women to join the male-dominated State Council and the General Prosecution.
Meanwhile, El-Qabbaj affirmed the state’s continued support to women’s issues and improving their conditions.
She said the number of families benefitting from the state’s social safety program Takaful and Karama rose to 14.3 million in 2020 from 12 million previously, with women comprising over 75 percent of beneficiaries.
The minister added that the government, in cooperation with civil society organisations, is working on paying the debts of 50 percent of Gharemat.
Also at the event, Minister of Planning Hala El-Said praised Egyptian women and doctors who played a key role in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, noting that women constitute 43 percent of doctors and 92 percent of nursing staff in the country.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his spouse, Intissar El-Sisi, received a warm welcome before the opening of the ceremony (Screenshot)