The President of the National Council for Women Maya Morsy – Egypt Today
CAIRO – 27 December 2017: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi announced earlier this year that 2017 will be the "Year of the Egyptian Woman".
What major women's issues has Sisi addressed in the last year? To what extent has the status of Egyptian women improved? What exactly happened in the "Year of the Egyptian Woman"? Egypt Today gives a detailed summary, reflecting on actions taken and policies implemented to better women’s lives in Egypt in 2017, presented by Maya Morsy, the president of the National Council of Women (NCW).
Laws issued in 2017 to protect Egyptian Women
"I personally think that having 90 female Parliament Members, which is equivalent to 15 percent of the Parliament, should create a difference; we have to admit that power is in number, and having the leap from 1.9 percent in the last Egyptian Parliament compared to women percentage in the current Parliament will definitely make a difference," Morsy stated.
In the year of women, a new law about female genital mutilation that increases the penalty for perpetrators was presented to Parliament by NCW. The Government also presented to Parliament the Inheritance Law, to make sure that women are given the right to their inheritance; ensuring women are not deprived from this right just because they are women. "We are also preparing a new family code that we are going to present to both the Parliament and the Government," said Morsy.
Morsy explained that they are listening to every single idea or suggestion related to the Family and Personal Status Law. The fact that they want to give voice to people’s ideas and listen to new suggestions led the NCW to launch a legislative observatory to receive all the ideas, thoughts and suggestions from civil society, female leaders, ordinary women, mothers that have custody over their children and even from fathers ask for visitation rights. "We also have the legislative committee that are now drafting the new family code after listening and having a lot of discussion sessions."
Additionally, NCW presented this year a law pertaining child marriage. There are about 118,000 girls that get married below the age of 18, specifically from 13 to 17 years old. "We presented a law to criminalise this potentially harmful marital process which is based on either tweaking the age of the girl or on writing an illegal paper then registering marriage later when the girl reaches 18 years old," Morsy recounted. She added that closing this door is extremely important. There is already a law criminalising child marriage – known as the Child Law – it is actually there, but focusing and raising the penalty on child marriage is a must because it is simply an assassination of childhood.
"We are also working on a law to protect women from all forms of violence," Morsy pointed out, explaining that they have carried out a lot of consultations and studies while preparing this law. One of the major studies that is currently used for the lobbying of this law is the economic cost of violence against women which showed shocking numbers. "The cost of violence against women is more than LE 2 billion. This is something we have to stop at; we have to try to find ways to protect women from all forms of violence."
Morsy elaborated that this is not a direct cost; this is the amount we are losing if women are subjected to violence. "So why not establish a law instead of losing LE 2 billion that will aid not only women but also their families. This is a very important law that we are submitting in the year of women to the parliament," Morsy added.
Egyptian Women in local councils
NCW made a clear plan to raise the awareness of women in local councils, encouraging them to run for local council’s elections. "We have raised the awareness of about 25,000 Egyptian women, created a database of women who are ready to run for elections, and gave an intensive and specified training. We trained about 7,000 women who are ready to run for the local council’s elections."
The increase in population and terrorism problems
"Any development that we are going to achieve will be eaten up by the increase in population," Morsy admitted. Morsy explained that there are crucially important things that we have to think about; for example, there are 13 percent of women with unmet needs, this means that they need to use contraceptives but they cannot reach the service. "If we make sure that the 13 percent who have unmet needs are covered, then we are decreasing the population rate," Morsy affirmed, recounting that NCW focused in the year of women on raising the awareness of not only married women but also school students. "It is how to instil in our children's minds that girls or boys that have a small family lead a better life and have a brighter future."
Morsy added that media has to play a role through theatre, soap operas and songs to show the harms and the bad consequences of the increase in population.
"People should see clearly through media the difference between having a big family and a small family; light should be shed on the advantages of having a small family."