As the revolution managed to throw down Mubarak’s dictatorship, women rights activists find themselves facing yet another threat to the status of women in
. Activists have long been fighting the bureaucracy and the patriarchal culture, now they’re facing a brand new enemy. Egypt
Multiple protests have been recently staged in protest of the parents contact law which regulates the rights of divorced parents to see their children. The law allowed women to have custody of their children upon divorce up until the children turn 15 years old then gives the children the right to choose their parent afterwards.
The protests were organized in several places such as The Ministry of Justice, the Azhar, and the Journalists Syndicate with hundreds showing up in protest of this particular law. Several new movements have organized the protests such as “Saving the Family” “
’s Men Revolution” movements and they included hundreds of fathers. The protests also included many Salafis, (members of a hardcore Islamist group). Egypt
According to the protesters, the divorced fathers can only see their children for 3 hours a week in a public place and if the mother decline holding the visit, there are no legal punishment for her. The protests called for a chance for the parents to see their children for a longer time and to change the age of mother’s custody to 9 years for girls and 7 years for boys.
The organizers and participants of the protests accused two institutions, namely the National Council for Women and the Ministry of Family and Population of corrupting the social life in
and demanded prosecution of different female figures that were previously responsible for these institutions including Suzan Mubarak. Egypt
The dangerous thing is the language used during the protests calling for an Islamic state and full implementation of the Islamic law as they called for scrapping what they called “Suzan Mubarak laws” in referral to women-promoting laws introduced during Mubarak era after years of campaigning from civil society activists, but it’s now carrying the stigma of the old regime. The protesters described these laws as corruptive of family nature, increasing divorce rates, and promoting women’s promiscuity!
In reaction to the protests, the grand mufti of
has announced that this law will be reconsidered according to religious jurisprudence. Also, the Justice Minster’s deputy has also announced that the contact law will be amended so that fathers can host their children up to 48 hours; and banning the travel of children from divorced parents unless both parents consent. Egypt
These statements have outraged women rights activists calling these demands for revoking the laws as opportunistic and unfair. They argued that despite the flaws, these laws did their own good and helped promote women’s status in society. It’s also argued that these laws were imposed on the society as a whole as there was no proper legislation process in place during the old regime’s rule. The activists demanded the laws remain in place until the legislative bodies in
restore their function and have a proper process of debate and discussion. Egypt
While I was always critical of the way such women rights institutions worked whether in terms of corruption or the way they used to introduce laws without properly addressing the community’s culture and concerns, many of the laws that were introduced under Mubarak’s rule as important and necessary steps towards women and children’s rights. Different rights were granted by these laws, such as facilitating women’s ability to get divorced, to pass on their nationality to their children, to issue birth certificate for their children even if the fathers decline paternity, protection against FGM, rising the age of marriage to 18 years old.
The deeply seated patriarchy in our culture causes many to see some of the rights in negative light and feel they’re corruptive of society. The association between institutions that created these laws, whether governmental or NGOs, to foreign donors enforces the negative image they have in some corners of the society.
It is notable to note that patriarchy here isn’t attributed to Islam as many in the West like to believe. It permeates in all layers of Egyptians, whether Muslim or Christian, however patriarchy usually uses religion as an excuse to perpetuate its values.
These laws and issues affect the society in so many ways. I am hopeful that this critical transition period will not cause any compromise in women’s status. Rightly, this is not the proper time to change any laws as we do not have a parliament yet. I am hopeful that the New Egypt would allow for more discussion and debate and that more moderate voices will join and support promoting the rights of women in