Egypt took a step further in the direction of women’s rights a few days ago, approving a law that would protect the identity of women who report sexual abuse. As Egypt struggles with gender equity, here is the reason why this law is revolutionary to its women citizens.
It is considered tradition for Egyptian women to be limited in their interactions with men. This is one of the reasons why the wearing of veils is enforced as well as keeping women from attending school and work.
A large share of Egypt’s women population is unemployed or lacks education. Due to the Egyptian law of how marriages are maintained, women are not allowed to get a job without her husband’s permission. These barriers make financial responsibilities such as childcare difficult to take care of. Women are also discouraged from going to work either by the men in their homes or the ones sexually harassing them at the workplace. Anti-discrimination laws also weakly enforced creating more room unequal pay and working conditions.
Though women rank higher in education than men, their ability to benefit financially from their degrees is stalled. However, in poor rural areas, women still struggle with access to education. Their literacy rate is lower than men by 65 percent. In those villages, girls aren’t even expected to go out on their own and create lives for themselves. They are heavily bound to the men of the house.
During the time of Gamal Abdul Nasser, a political movement toward women’s rights was introduced known as “state feminism.” Women were given their right to vote in 1956, laws protecting women in the labor force were introduced and gender discrimination was condemned. However, the system moving toward women’s liberation fell through as time went on, roles of women vanished and men continued sponsoring their oppression.
Sexual harassment was criminalized in recently 2013. Nearly 90% of Egyptian women reported to be sexually harassed in a survey. To further emphasize the disregard for women’s lives, honor killings continue to take place when a woman is judged to have committed adultery or any other form of disobedience. Only in 2016 did Egypt rule genital mutilation as a felony after a young girl died following a procedure. Women even struggled to maintain the ownership of even their bodies as they were forced into satisfying societal standards.
Women in Egypt have struggled for years to gain simple liberties and rights to better their lives. Their government took baby steps toward granting them certain protections, but most importantly, a law allowing women to protect their identities prevents them from being attacked again or losing their lives. This gives women the chance to hold their attackers accountable and hopefully tighten the laws around how men treat women for the future.
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