AWO: Protection of female refugees is pressing issue
By: Mervat Mahmoud
Mon, Dec. 4, 2017
CAIRO – 4 December 2017: The Arab Women Organization (AWO) held a seminar on Sunday to discuss mechanisms for fighting violence against women, as part of the international 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) campaign between November 25 and December 10.
Arab female parliamentarians, Egyptian actress Yousra, a group of public figures, and media and legal personnel attended the seminar that witnessed the launch of two AWO projects on women’s civil and humanitarian rights.
In her speech, the manager of AWO, Ambassador Mervat Tallawy, said that AWO pays great attention to the issue of refugees and displaced persons from the Arab countries as a result of armed conflicts. Tallawy pointed out that the AWO realizes the extent of violence, including sexual violence that these female refugees face during the conflict, while fleeing and when they arrive to their refuge destination. She also highlighted the efforts exerted by AWO to support and protect female refugees, and she condemned all forms of violence against Palestinian women residing under occupation.
The ambassador also presented examples of development and progress achieved in some Arab countries in the area of combating violence against women and girls. These examples included:
Tallawy highlighted that the Egyptian Constitution of 2014 affirms the principle of equality between men and women in political, economic, social, cultural and civil rights, and it criminalizes all forms of discrimination against women. She added that the constitution also established necessary mechanisms to monitor gender-based discrimination.
Article 98 of the Egyptian Constitution criminalizes all forms of slavery and human trafficking, categorizing the marriage of underage girls as human trafficking.
The Penal Code intensified the penalty of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Article 61 explains that any person who operates FGM will be punished by imprisonment for a term of not less than five years.
Moreover, Article 306 of the Penal Code sets a penalty of not less than six months of imprisonment and a fine that ranges between LE 3,000 to LE 5,000 ($169-$282), or both penalties, on sexual assault perpetrators in public or private places.
Also, in 2015, Egypt adopted the national strategy to combat violence against women (2015 – 2020) to prevent violence against women and girls, protect women and girls, implement interventions on women empowerment and ensure the prosecution of perpetrators.
The Jordanian parliament repealed the law that exempted rapists of punishment if they marry their victims. Moreover, the Jordanian government introduced an amendment to Article 340 of the Penal Code that decreased the sentences of perpetrators that commit “honor killing crimes”.
In August, the Tunisian cabinet ratified a law to criminalize all forms of violence against women. The law is expected to enter into force on February 11, 2018. Furthermore, Tunisia developed a national strategy to combat all forms of violence against women.
The Moroccan Ministry of Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development drafted a law to combat all forms of violence against women that focuses on the protection of women and children survivors of violence of any form. In addition, the law criminalizes all acts of violence and intensifies the sanctions on perpetrators.
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The Ministry of State for Women's Affairs in Lebanon drafted a law that criminalizes sexual harassment. The Lebanese cabinet approved the law on March 8, the International Women’s Day, and it was referred to the Parliament on March 21. The Lebanese Cabinet also adopted a bill on the protection of women and all family members from domestic violence.
The Parliament abolished Article 522 of the Penal Code, which exempted rapists from punishment if they married their victims. The Parliament also received a draft law to protect children from early marriage and to set the marriage age in Lebanon to 18 years for both sexes.
Under the supervision of the Ministry of National Solidarity, the country established national safe centers to provide necessary support to women survivors of violence. The centers provide a package of services for survivors, including accommodation and psychological care for the survivors and their families, and recreational activities, like sewing, hairdressing and traditional crafts.
Algeria also developed a national strategy to combat all forms of violence against women. The strategy is built on effective coordination among various governmental and non-governmental stakeholders in accordance with a comprehensive plan on women empowerment.
AWO is an intergovernmental organization established under the umbrella of the League of Arab States and headquartered in Egypt. It emerged from the Cairo Declaration issued by the First Arab Women Summit, which convened in Cairo in November 2000, and was co-organized by the National Council for Women in Egypt, Hariri Foundation in Lebanon and the League of Arab States (LAS). AWO’s agreement came into effect in March 2003. The current president of AWO is Ronak Mustafa Abdul Wahid from Iraq (2015 – 2017).
This article is part of Egypt Today’s campaign “Break the Silence ... Say No to Violence” marking the 16-Day campaign of activism against gender-based violence GBV from November 25 to December 10.