Aswat Masriya (Cairo)

Egypt: Women Rights Groups Slam Egypt's New Charter

Egyptian feminist movements said that Saturday's referendum on the draft constitution is void as it "crashes the aspirations of the people and the principles of the revolution".

The draft constitution that was written by an Islamist-led assembly "ignores women's rights and limits democratic freedoms", said Amnesty International.

The charter has been widely denounced by opposition forces, including leftist, socialist and liberal parties and prominent opposition figures.

A feminist group known as "Baheya Ya Masr" considered putting the draft charter to a referendum without national consensus an attempt of one faction to dominate the country's fate.

The group feared that the constitution would pave the way for "political Islam" which they argued disregards the most basic principles of democracy and transparency.

In a statement issued by "Baheya ya Masr" on Tuesday they said that they made some observations through a careful reading of the draft constitution.

The group said that the draft constitution includes some "ticking bombs" for women and children, slamming articles 2, 4, 219 which maintain that Sharia (Islamic law) is the main source of legislation and grants Al-Azhar the power of jurisdiction.

Baheya's statement considered that this puts the state under the authority of clergymen - which contradicts the principles of democracy and threatens legal and social stability.

The statement pointed out that the charter marginalized economic and social rights and mentioned it in loose terms that do not oblige the state to any health care or provide adequate housing or adequate remuneration.

According to "Nazra", another rights group, women rights were not focused on in the draft constitution, but were only mentioned in the context of general ethical frameworks.

In a statement it issued, Nazra emphasized that the draft constitution did not stipulate women's right to equality, non-discrimination, political participation, employment, and healthcare or provide for the rights of children.

"The draft constitution ignores political participation of women, it did not adopt an electoral system to ensure their effective participation or that women are represented democratically within different elected assemblies", the statement said, adding that the draft constitution obliged political parties not to discriminate on the basis of sex but it did not oblige institutions of the state to do so.

The statement rejected restricting the right of organization only to unions and labor organizations, referring to the article's impact on women's ability to organize themselves in trade or professional unions.

Meanwhile, in a press conference last week, the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights said, "The current draft constitution does not represent Egyptian women in any way, but progressively ignores their rights as citizens."

Head of the Center Nehad Abu el-Komosan said that the draft constitution uses the same philosophy of the 1971 Constitution, where the rights are stated, but the application is referred either to the text of the law or in loose terms.

Abu el-Komosan interpreted the provisions of Article 10, which reads, "The state and society is keen to preserve the genuine nature of the Egyptian family and its moral values" as a call for women to return to their homes and opens the door for fundamentalists who wish to stick to background values.

Abu el-Komosan considered Article 8 which calls for equality insufficient, saying it is fake equality without guarantees.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said in a report it released regarding Article 10 "The state's role should be confined to ensuring equality and non-discrimination, without interfering with a woman's choices about her life, family, and profession or to justify discrimination on that basis."

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