A UN logo for combating violence against women
A draft law combating violence against women proposed in September and recently signed by 60 members of parliament is making its way in parliament with the end goal it becomes law.
MP Nashwa Al-Deeb says the draft will be referred to a specialised committee and a community dialogue will begin over it before it is discussed in a plenary session and put up for a vote.
The draft is part of the National Strategy for Combating Violence against Women, the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Women 2030 and the National Human Rights Strategy.
The draft was the subject of a webinar held last week by the Cairo Foundation for Development and Law (CFDL) as part of the activities of the 16-day campaign organised by the National Council for Women to combat violence against women.
A unified law to criminalise violence against women is important because punishment for violence against women is currently found in around 12 laws, says writer, researcher, and trainer in women’s rights Lamia Lutfi. This, Lutfi said, creates a “fluid situation which could allow a male assailant to escape punishment, especially if they are the father, brother, or husband,” she explained.
In addition, current laws do not protect the personal information of female victims, Lutfi said.
The seven-chapter draft law annuls all articles concerning violence against women in other laws. It defines all types of violence against women and stipulates that qualified medical female staff work in police departments to receive female victims and attend the investigation along with a psychologist and a pro-women rights NGO representative.
It also provides women with protection if they need to go home to get their personal belongings, provides them with safe alternative homes and obliges the perpetrators to sign a restraining order. It stipulates that the state sets up rehabilitation centres for perpetrators. The law also gives female victims the right to financial compensation. And it includes a one-year sentence for anyone who tries to pressure a female victim to drop charges. The law also features articles to protect women from online blackmailing. The law also punishes perpetrators with prison sentences that could reach 25 years.
There are shortcomings in defining crimes of violence against women in the current Egyptian law, added CFDL Chairperson of the Board of Trustees Intisar Al-Said. Rape, Al-Said said, is considered indecent assault. She added that Article 17 of the Egyptian Criminal Law should be changed because it allows judges to downgrade a death sentence to life imprisonment.
“Unfortunately, female victims resort to us after they have been subjected to violence so all we can do for them is give them medical assistance like psychological therapy. We rarely can be preventive,” Al-Said said.
According to statistics from the National Council for Women, almost seven million women were subjected to violence in Egypt in 2022 but only about 75,000 resorted to the police.
This is the second attempt to send the law to parliament, pointed out rapporteur of the Population Issue Committee in the National Dialogue Nevine Obeid. “We are constantly being told that we already have enough laws to protect women’s rights... instead violence against women is increasing,” Obeid said.
Participants in the webinar called upon the state to spread awareness about violence against women through its ministries. In some cases, female victims may not realise that they were subjected to violence in the first place, they stressed.
“Approving the anti-violence law is an endorsement of the rights of females and a source of protection for them,” Al-Deeb said.
“We need the new law to facilitate litigation and protect victims,” added Obeid. “Domestic violence could be solved if we maintain a balance of justice between men and women.”