Cairo — Women's rights groups have put forward a number of draft laws they want discussed in the newly-elected parliament, which was inaugurated Sunday.
Proposed legislation on women includes a personal status bill as well as bills on domestic violence, human trafficking and municipal elections, in addition to proposed amendments to existing women-related laws.
Women's organisations have set high hopes for the new parliament with regards to laws securing more achievements for women, in light of the fact that the current parliament has 87 female members, making up 14.59% of the parliament's 596 seats.
Personal status law:
The general federation of Egyptian women completed the preparation of a draft personal status law in collaboration with a number of women's organisations, law and shariah (Islamic jurisprudence) professors and the National Council for Human Rights, according to Essam Shaaban, the media coordinator of the union.
Shaaban said the amendments aimed at achieving justice for all parties involved. He said that the draft law is avoiding loopholes in the existing one.
Alimony cases represent 80% of the cases held in front of family courts per year according to statistics by the National Council for Women.
Shaaban said that the union is in contact with women members in the House of Representatives and has put forward the draft law to them.
The draft law requires the presence of the two parties for a divorce to take place and be documented. It would provides that the alimony shall not be less than 25% of the husband's income, and it allows for the proof of lineage through DNA.
The draft law includes provisions regulating the the engagement before marriage, and tightens penalties for violations of the law's provisions.
Shaaban said the union will discuss with the House of Representatives all laws affecting women to avoid discrimination and prejudice against their rights.
Law of domestic violence and human trafficking
Intisar al-Saeed, director of Cairo Center for Development (CCD) said that they have prepared a new draft law against domestic violence and human trafficking.
The draft law criminalises maritial rape and incest and intensifies penalties for wife-beating.
According to the penal code, the penalty for wife-beating does not have a deterrent effect and Egyptian courts resort to reconciliation between the two parties so the wife ends up not getting her right, Saeed said.
She pointed that the draft law criminlises "girls' sale". She expressed her rejection of the Egyptian Justice Minister's decision relating to the marriage to foreigners. "We are with criminalising tourist marriages, not legalising it," she said.
In December, Justice Minister Ahmed Al-Zind issued a decree requiring that foreign men pay 50,000 Egyptian pounds in investment certificates at the National Bank of Egypt if they wish to marry women 25 or more years younger than they are.
The decree was met with a lot of criticism from women, activists, and human and women's rights organisations, which accused the law of legalising and facilitating seasonal summer marriages or "tourist marriages", as they are called in Egypt.
Municipal elections law:
The New Women Foundation held more than a panel discussion about the local council elections law, which is expected to be issued by the parliament in line with the constitution. The law enhances the participation of women in local units.
Article 180 of the Egyptian constitution stipulates that "Every local unit shall elect a local council by direct and secret ballot for a term of four years. A candidate shall be at lease twenty one (21) Gregorian years of age."
The article allocates one quarter of the seats to youth under the age of 35 and another quarter for women.
Nevin Ebeid, a member of the foundation, demanded that women stakeholders be involved in the decision making process and the drafting of law.
Ebeid suggested that the law be implemented using the lists system instead of the single-member districts system to make competition easier for women running in the elections.
Nawal Mostafa, the head of Children of Women Prisoners Association, calls for the amendment of some articles in the Child law relating to children of women prisoners, who are currently 150 prisoners.
She rejects the proposed bill, which calls for increasing years of custody inside prisons to four years instead of two years.
Article 31 of the Egyptian Child Law no. 126/2008 stipulates that "A nursery shall be established in every prison for women, according to the specifications for nurseries, where children of female prisoners may be placed until they reach the age of four on condition that the mother stays with her child during the first year of his life.
A decree shall be issued by the Minister of Interior to regulate the communication between the imprisoned mother and her child. The mother shall not take the child to her prison cell and she shall not be deprived from seeing her child or taking care of him as a punitive action for any wrongdoing."
She demanded that imprisoned mothers be kept in a separate building away from prison, yet still under the supervision of the interior ministry as an alternative solution to keeping children inside prison.
She suggested the activation some articles of the law including the postponement of penalty on women in crimes involving the two parents until the lapse of the father's penalty period in order to preserve the family and the society. She explained that the necessity of applying the article in Egypt as the children's fate is undetermined after the imprisonment of their parents.
She also suggested that pregnant women not hold their sentences until they give birth and complete the breastfeeding period. She proposed that sentences handed to mothers be replaced with social services in cases in which the convicted mothers are charged with minor offences.
Mona Ezzat, the director of the Women and Work Programme at the New Woman Foundation, said there are several provisions in the Labour code that need to be amended. She said that the parliament must open a societal dialogue involving all stakeholders before adopting a new law.
One of the key proposed amendments is raising the fine imposed on employers who deprive working women of the privileges granted by the law. These privileges include the maternity leave and setting up nurseries for children of women employees.
She pointed out that the current fine, which starts from EGP 100 and doesn't exceed EGP 500, is not enough to deter employers from violating the law.
She also noted that the current law excludes housemaids and women working at the agriculture sector from rights and privileges obtained by working women though these are the largest sectors where women work.
Ezzat stressed the importance of eliminating such exclusions.
(Translated into English by Menna Zaki)