Women Rights Continue

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Snapping out of the malaise of sexism in our community, March 14th, 2010 marks a milestone in women’s relentless attempts towards their emancipation and gaining their rights. The case of women finally assuming the right to exercise public power specifically being appointed as judges in administrative courts has been highly controversial; and initially received with dramatic condemnation and discrepancy.

Although the history of this debate goes years back, it was only significantly unfolded last February. In the beginning, The State Councils General Assembly voted against women’s assumption of their right of judicial appointment by the ratio of 334 out of 380 judges. However, its chairman Mohamed El-Husseini rejected such decision. Moreover, supporting the rule in favor of women, the Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif as well as the Minister of Justice Mamdouh Marei requested clarification of legislation of State Council; which eventually referred the claimed right to the sexless generic term of an “Egyptian”.  Consequently, the case was turned around as judicial positions now fall as citizenship rights.  Eventually on March 14th, the Supreme Constitutional Court did not only rule in favor of women, but also that The State Councils General Assembly is not authorized to ban them.

Votes that attempted the impediment of such a rule have different reasons behind; however they were not strong enough to support the argument. They vary from questioning women’s logic and professionalism to their ability of social and political reform. This side of the argument believed it is best to exclude women from the decision making process, which not only enhances male chauvinism, but also sheds light on the inadequate practice of preached democracy and implementing articles of constitution. Ironically, the suppression of women in our society, while extravagantly stressing patriarchal domination provide the concrete reasons of opposing the rule in favor of women; which are solely categorized as cultural and social.   

Advocating the factuality that the actual reasons for the opposition are only cultural or societal is profoundly evident through the countless eminent female figures throughout history. For instance, Hoda Shaarawi, the pioneer Egyptian feminist leader and nationalist in 1923, founded the Egyptian Feminist Union and was its first president. Moreover, Aisha Rateb the first Egyptian woman to be appointed as ambassador, whose request to assume a position in State Council was rejected back then on account of her sex, yet she was supported by the people, the media and also some members of the State Council itself. In addition, Tahani El Gibali’s judicial appointment in 2003 to the Supreme Constitutional Court, which was endorsed by President Hosni Mubarak. Besides, examples for other significant figures who had the path a lot more facilitated than that of our community, are like Condoleezza Rice, the former United States Secretary of State, and Mary Robinson the seventh President of Ireland, which in turn encircles the actual reasons behind the attempts of impediment of such a rule; that are not backed up by neither the law nor the religion.

Supporting the eventual judgment in favor of women Nadya Khalifa, women's rights researcher for the Middle East and North Africa at the New York-based Human Rights Watch says, “The continuing discrimination insults the many Egyptian women who are fully qualified to serve as judges," for such sexual discrimination in judicial positions is certainly highly condemned by HRW and that eventually urged the government to put this dispute to an end. In addition to this, grand Imam of Al Azhar, the late Mohamed Sayed Tantawy, as well as the Mufti Ali Gomaa confirmed that there is nothing in religion that prohibits women from exercising public power by being appointed as judges, nor there is any subtle insinuation that conveys their incapability of such an appointment or denial of their full citizenship rights. Last but not least, it is important to mention that regardless of gender, judges receive trainings, and the law is distinctly written so that it is applied as fairly as it can be, for there is no room for individual decisions.

Ironically, despite the stark opposition faced upon the demand of such a right by women, the eventual rule is most certainly leading to a preferable better future; it should be considered its own accomplishment as it somehow puts instant social and cultural reform in action. It is a fact that women are nowadays extensively educated and informed unlike before; consequently it is nothing to do with the sex one is born with, as it should not be the aspect or the claimed privilege that facilitates gaining power; so it is only knowledge that delivers that power. As we set the rules of our acquired and extrinsically built societal culture, it is always in our hands to twist them around in favor of our own development; the step of women getting the right of judicial power is a forward one towards the progress of a civilized fair society, that respects its citizens regardless of their sex, religion or ethnic origin, through providing them with their citizenship rights; applying the articles of constitution and practicing democracy. It is an opportunity for women to prove themselves, act on their new responsibilities, celebrate their own advancement, for without this right, we would have only been moving backwards.

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