Demonstrators fear Egyptian constitution will not guard women's rights

Mary Mourad , Tuesday 2 Oct 2012

A group of women and men protested the articles related to women's rights in the draft constitution

A few hundred women and men gathered outside the Shura Council headquarters in Cairo on Tuesday, protesting proposed elements of the new constitution which they argued threaten women's rights.

Protesters voiced concerns over Article 36 in the draft charter, which states that women and men will be equal except where such equality conflicts with Islamic law, as well as the formation of the Constituent Assembly, as per the call made earlier by a number of women organizations, political parties and activists. The slogans raised included calls for the removal of Article 36, disbanding the current assembly and forming a new one, and demands for women's rights to be included in the new constitution.

Nadia Abdel-Wahab, physician and member of the supreme council of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, was very skeptical of keeping the article in a constitution that comes after a revolution, asking for significant change in favour of women and not against them.

Om Mohamed, another protester, said that she was a widow who had to work as a cook to raise four children after her husband died, and although she couldn't read or write, she had asked around and understood what the constitution articles included and came to join the protests. She chanted at the top of her voice while everyone else repeated after her: "Where are my rights? I want my grandchildren to learn! I couldn't send my children to higher education because of lack of money. We want decent houses. We cannot afford to build our house without proper foundation and this is what we need in this new constitution to build the new country."

Pointing to the police officers and soldiers guarding the Shura Council, Om Mohamed continued: "They also have rights and their rights must be in the constitution."

For Raed Salama, a businessman and political activist, the issue is to avoid any potential interpretations that could affect women negatively. A number of men who joined the protest also chanted against the assembly which they considered to be unrepresentative.

Heads and members of the women's committee of the liberal Free Egyptians Party held banners against Article 36 and calling for rights of all women and minorities, demanding better representation for Copts and women in a new assembly, and rejecting the current assembly as biased towards the Islamist current.

Short link: