Women's human rights in Egypt
The Egyptian authorities must amend existing legislation to better protect women in Egypt, and ensure they play an active role in reforms.
Women played a key role during the 18 days of protest that led to former president Hosni Mubarak's downfall.
Young and old, veiled and unveiled, educated and illiterate, they stood up and chanted for change. Many abandoned the way they had previously led their lives, and overturned deeply ingrained attitudes surrounding 'appropriate' behaviour for women.
However, when discussions on change and reform in Egypt began, they were overlooked.
Women were excluded from the committee that formulated amendments to the constitution that were approved on 19 March. The committee's proposals included denying women the chance to run for the presidency. A reshuffle of ministerial positions has reduced the number of women ministers from three to just one.
Following calls from women's organisations and activists, the Egyptian Prime Minister met with women's representatives on 22 March and stressed the importance of women's participation in politics and public life. Yet so far there have been no concrete proposals for reform.
Women protestors have faced brutal treatment at the hands of security forces, including beatings and threats of sexual abuse.
In December 2011, women's human rights activists took to the streets of Cairo to denounce the violence used against protestors. They marched through the city carrying shocking images of soldiers beating and stripping female demonstrators.
Shocking footage of the day has emerged, showing two female protestors being dragged along the ground, stripped and stamped on. One, Azza Hilal, was beaten severely in the head and face.
At least eight of the female protestors were taken by the armed forces to a parliament building in central Cairo where they reportedly beat them with sticks, molested some of the group and threatened them with sexual assault. At least two women were hospitalised.
Earlier in 2011, following a peaceful protest in Tahrir square to mark International Women's Day, some women told us that they were beaten, given electric shocks and forced to submit to 'virginity testing'.
This is a profound violation of women and girls' rights to equality; non-discrimination; and freedom from torture and degrading treatment.
Women's human rights defenders speak out
Following their detention on 16 December 2011 several of the women have spoken about their experiences.
Dr Ghada Kamal was hit on the head while trying to help a girl who had been severely beaten in Tahrir Square. Once detained, she was threatened with sexual assault. Watch now
Dr Farida al Hossy was attacked and beaten in Tahrir Square before being taken into detention. Watch now (Arabic)
Mona Saif was arrested while leaving the field hospital in Tahrir Square. While in detention she saw a woman beaten after being identified as an activist. Watch now (Arabic)
Discrimination and exclusion is not new for Egyptian women. The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap 2010 Report has ranked Egypt 125 out of 134 countries in terms of gender equality.
Although previous government authorities have taken steps to increase women's participation, these piecemeal attempts have been insufficient to combat the entrenched discrimination faced by Egyptian women. Discrimination exists in law, including in the constitution itself, and in practice through social barriers to equality.
- Adultery: Defined differently for men and women, with men receiving more lenient punishment.
- 'Crimes of honour': Men are still given sentences as little as six months imprisonment, as allowed by law.
- Marriage: Men and women still do not have equal rights when entering or dissolving a marriage.
- Sexual harassment: Faced by Egyptian women in the workplace and outside. Women are usually reluctant to report such incidents because of the social obstacles and men usually go unpunished for such crimes.
- Female genital mutilation: Still carried out, despite laws making it illegal
Our Women's Right Programme Director, Poonam Joshi, talks about the rights of women in Middle East and North Africa in the light of recent revolution movements.
Read our full list of demands for women's human rights in Egypt in our Egypt human rights agenda for change (pdf)