Apr 30, 2011

Opportunistic Islamists and women rights in transitional Egypt

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 Egypt. Activists have long been fighting the bureaucracy and the patriarchal culture, now they’re facing a brand new enemy.

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” “Egypt’s Men Revolution” movements and they included hundreds of fathers. The protests also included many Salafis, (members of a hardcore Islamist group).

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 Egypt and demanded prosecution of different female figures that were previously responsible for these institutions including Suzan Mubarak.

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 Egypt 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.

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 Egypt restore their function and have a proper process of debate and discussion.

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 Egypt.


  1. Thanks for sharing, I hope you write more in this regard as events unfold.

  2. It should be painfully obvious what has happened and is unfolding, the same controls remain in place. The monkeys and the Gorillas in the name of God have joined forces and will try rewrite the laws of the Jungle to keep the Young Lions of Egypt caged..the same Lions who with their roar frightened them into far up into the trees.
    God is Law..He made the Female..the Lioness the provider as well as the bearer of the young..and who without ..there can be no future.
    God is wisdom..The man who does not respect the woman..does not respect his mother..and he does not respect the truth..
    Laws made to cut the woman out are laws that cut ones face to make one's nose happy..

    Now the monkeys ask the young lions to return to a freshly painted cage and all will be well..They will laugh at the lion so hard they will fall from the tree..to the ground..and then will learn the Lions family has more than a loud Roar.

    Who among us here will return to the cage?

  3. Egyptians, and importantly Egyptian women have a chance to take Egypt into the 21st century. The young people should demand improvement from what previously existed. To go backward in relation to freedoms would be a tragedy. Moderate Egyptians must take an early stand for what they envisage the Egypt of the future to become. Religious extremism will only lead to misery.

  4. the enemy you know (mubarak) is better than the unknown! All the best. ahahahahaha

  5. Very interesting. An additional point your readers may be interested in: the building of the National Council for Women was fiercely vandalized and burned, room by room, on January 28. The pictures were shown all over the world, but always misidentified, usually as being the headquarters of Mubarak's party. Obviously, the Islamists had struck. Not one protest leader uttered a peep, nor did any Western or UN leader, though the Council was a partner of USAID, UNICEF and the UN Development Program, UNDP. Quite the contrary, everyone talked about the wonderful role of women in the "revolution" -- yeah, as the target of burning. The building will now be razed. For pictures proving the identity of this, the largest building burned by the so-called protesters, go to
    http://tenc.net/kristof2.htm and http://tenc.net/time.htm

    Jared Israel
    Emperor's Clothes

  6. Do you need Finance? Are you looking for Finance? Are you looking for finance to enlarge your business? We help individuals and companies to obtain finance for business expanding and to setup a new business ranging any amount. Get finance at affordable interest rate of 3%, Do you need this finance for business and to clear your bills? Then send us an email now for more information contact us now via (financialserviceoffer876@gmail.com) whats-App +918929509036 Thank