Press Release - International Women Day -
Taking Steps on the Long Road to Ending Violence against Women in Egypt
International Women’s Day (IWD), since 1909, celebrates women’s achievements in all spheres of life and calls for gender equality. Part of the incentive for IWD came when thousands of women took to the streets in New York City to demonstrate against the unreasonable conditions of women in the clothing industry. The strike was a response to low wages, sexual harassment and lack of protection. A century after, women still face these same challenges.
Egypt is home to 48.7 million women, and improvements to their conditions and welfare is a significant indicator of the state’s economic and social development. Accordingly, the Egyptian government took different measurements to decrease gender gap and addresses different forms of violations against women through placing appropriate polices and legislations. The current Egyptian constitution stipulates that the “[s]tate guarantees the achievement of equality between men and women in all civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”. In the past 10 years, Egypt has issued or amended different articles of the penal code to address firmly different forms of violations against women. In 2016 and 2021, amendments to the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) article No. 242 took place to end medicalization of the practice and close existing loopholes. In 2014, the Egyptian government amended article 306A in the penal code to criminalize sexual harassment and in 2021, an additional amendment was introduced to strengthen the sentences. Further, in the year 2020, the Egyptian parliament approved a legislative amendment to the criminal code to protect the identities of victims of sexual harassment, assault and rape during court cases in a move that aimed to encourage women and girls to report cases of sexual violence. The Egyptian State further issued a number of significant strategies and mechanisms to address gender inequality and reduce violence against women such as the National Strategy for the Empowerment of Egyptian women 2030 and the “Gender Gap Accelerator”- a national public-private collaboration model which enables governments and businesses to expedite closure of economic gender gap.
At a global level, Egypt has closed 63.9% of its overall gender gap, ranking 129th out of 156 countries globally. Whilst Egypt has shown steady improvement on educational attainment, (97% of the gap has been closed) and made progress on its political empowerment gap, with an increase of 6.3 percentage points from 2020, still it falls short in economic empowerment and participation. Egypt is ranked 146th (bottom 10 countries) with less than 20% of women in the labor force, which in turn subjects Egyptian women to increased risk of exploitation and violence.
In 2022, Egyptian women face significant hurdles to equality; particularly in terms of economic participation, sexual violence, rapid rates of population growth and high levels of poverty. Egyptian women experience a high prevalence rate of violence that they experience through their life cycle and in some cases on a daily bases. According to the 2015, Demographic Health Survey, (DHS), 85% of married Egyptian women, have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) at the average age of 10 years old and around 29% of ever-married women experienced a form of violence by their husbands. The 2017 Egyptian Census stated that 1 in every 20 girls (4%) between the ages of 15 to 17 and 1 in every 10 (11%) between the ages of 15 to 19 years are either currently married or were married before. Street sexual harassment is a violation that Egyptian women struggle with daily. Studies confirm that more than 90% of Egyptian women are exposed to sexual harassment in the public spaces and the majority of harassments take place in the street or on public transportation.
On International Women’s Day, Tadwein for Gender Studies urges the Egyptian state to accelerate change towards ending violence against women through 10 steps:
- Issue a comprehensive law on violence against women and/or reform legislations to criminalise all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, sexual violence and rape.
- Allocate adequate places within police stations and prosecution offices where women can safely file cases of sexual violence.
- Establish specialized courts or special proceeding to guarantee timely and efficient handling of cases of violence against women. Specialized courts ensure that procedures are gender-sensitive reducing the burden on the survivor.
- Ensure that different actors within the judiciary system at all levels (police, social workers, prosecutors, judiciary, and forensic officers) receive appropriate training on how to effectively prevent, protect, investigate and prosecute sexual violence crimes.
- Ensure that medical personnel (physicians and nurse and others) receive adequate training on how to deal with survivors of violence and how to process cases of sexual assault and rape – administrating rape kits and preservation of evidence of sexual assault and rape.
- Collect and make available relevant data on the different forms of violence. To effectively combat violence against women, we need to continue to understand the determinates and social context, thus collecting relevant data is key to the implementation of successful preventative and protective measures
- Ensure effective consultation and involvement of women’s right groups and other feminist groups throughout the process of development of relevant national strategies and legislations.
- Increase government funding for shelter services – Egypt has only nine shelters operating in 8 out of 27 governorates-, enhance provided services and facilitate admission procedures.
- Ensure the reinforcement of existing legislations on violence against women through appropriate implementing and follow-up procedures.
- Implement evidence based preventive programmes in different governorates to address different forms of violence and widely advocate for ending social acceptance of violence against women.