Press Release “International Women Day”
8 March 2022
Taking Steps on the Long Road to Ending Violence against Women in Egypt
Since 1909, International Women’s Day (IWD) 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 a lack of protection. A century later, women still face those same challenges.
Egypt is home to 48.7 million women. Improvements in their conditions and welfare indicate the state’s economic and social development. The Egyptian government took different measures to decrease the gender gap and addressed different forms of violations against women by establishing appropriate policies and legislation.
The current Egyptian Constitution stipulates that the state 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. The state is also committed to protecting women from all forms of violence and ensures that women are empowered to reconcile family duties with work requirements. It is also committed to providing care and protection for motherhood, childhood, breadwinner women, the elderly, and women most in need.
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 the 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 2020, the Egyptian parliament approved a legislative amendment to the penal code to protect the identities of victims of sexual harassment, assault, and rape during court cases in order 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 that enables governments and businesses to close the economic gender gap more quickly.
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 in educational attainment (97% of the gap has been closed), and made progress on its political empowerment gap, with an increase of 6.3% from 2020, it still 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 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 basis. According to the Demographic Health Survey (DHS) of 2015, 85% of married Egyptian women, have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) at the average age of 10 and about 29% of ever-married women have undergone some 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 public spaces and the majority of harassment take place in the street or on public transportation.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Tadwein for Gender Studies urges the Egyptian state to accelerate changes toward ending violence against women through 10 steps:
- Issue a comprehensive law on violence against women and/or reform legislation to criminalize 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 proceedings 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, nurses, 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 provisions and social context. Collecting relevant data is thus key to the implementation of successful preventative and protective measures
- Ensure effective consultation and involvement of women’s rights groups and other feminist groups throughout the development process of relevant national strategies and legislation.
- 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 legislation on violence against women through appropriate implementation and follow-up procedures.
- Implement evidence-based prevention programs in different governorates to address different forms of violence and advocate widely for ending social acceptance of violence against women.