Muslim Brotherhood opposes UN declaration on #VAW #WTFnews


Egyptian rulers reject idea of equality as undermining family values

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Egyptian women on the streets in Port Said. Groups claim women have been attacked while on demonstrations in order to discourage them from taking part. Photograph: Ed Giles/Getty Images

Muslim Brotherhood has held up finalisation and promulgation of a UN document dealing with violence against women, claiming it violates Islamic law, principles and traditions and undermines family values.

The draft text, due to be issued by the UN Commission on the Status of Women today, calls for the “elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”.

The Brotherhood contests provisions on sexual abuse, sexual rights, sexual health and the right of women to control their sexuality. Specifically, it opposes provisions calling for equal inheritance rights, equality within the family, raising the legal age for marriage and granting permission for Muslim women to marry non-Muslims.

The movement also objects to permitting Muslim women to travel, work and use contraception without the approval of male relatives. It argues the document is “deceitful” because it would give women the choice of abortion “under the guise of sexual and reproductive rights”.

Adoption of the document would “lead to social disintegration”, the Brotherhood claims. It said in a statement: “The Muslim Brotherhood calls on leaders of Islamic countries, their foreign ministers and representatives in the Un ited Nations to reject and condemn this document.”
Influence
Since it rules Egypt, the most populous Arab country, the Brotherhood wields considerable influence with Muslim governments. On the issue of women’s rights, it has also secured the backing of RussiaPoland and the Vatican.

On the issues of sexual freedom, abortion and homosexuality, conservative Muslims and Christians have made common cause for years.

Sexual harassment, rape and assaults against women have increased in Egypt since the fall of president Hosni Mubarak two years ago, prompting criticism of presidentMohamed Morsi and his government for failing to tackle the phenomenon.

Women’s groups contend attacks during demonstrations against Brotherhood policies are being carried out with the aim of ending women’s participation. At least 29 assaults by gangs of men were reported on January 25th, during a rally in Cairo marking the anniversary of the 2011 uprising.

World Bank report said that up to 70 per cent of women suffer violence in their lifetime, and that women aged 15-44 are “more at risk from domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria”.

The most common form of violence committed against women is physical abuse including beatings and rape by a partner.

 

read more- http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/muslim-brotherhood-opposes-un-declaration-on-violence-against-women-1.1326515

 

Egyptian Constitution Provides Little Protection to women #Vaw #sexualharassment


By Hajer Naili

WeNews correspondent

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A secular Egyptian woman outlines the disappointments written into the country’s new constitution, passed in late December. Women have had only one legal advance since the revolution: prosecuting sex harassment.

 

Demonstration in Cairo against the draft constitution, Dec. 4, 2012
Demonstration in Cairo against the draft constitution, Dec. 4, 2012

 

Credit: Moud Barthez on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

 

(WOMENSENEWS)–Egypt’s new constitution leaves Dooa Abdallah feeling left out.

“I don’t see myself as an Egyptian citizen in this constitution. I don’t see my future in this constitution,” she said.

Abdallah voted against the proposed constitution and now says it must not be left in its current version. It won’t be easy to change, she says, but she hopes to see the text challenged through “legal ways and on the streets.”

Abdallah is the Middle East and North Africa regional coordinator for the International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics (iKnow Politics) and a board member of an international solidarity network called Women Living Under Muslim Laws. She spoke with Women’s eNews in a recent Skype interview from Cairo, where she is based.

Like many Egyptian critics of the ruling Islamist party, she says the new constitution drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood was too rushed and resulted in a document that neither represents Egyptian society nor challenges the status quo that gripped the country for decades under former-President Hosni Mubarak.

“The text should be reflecting the notions of equality and freedom, but the constitution is now only reflecting the conservative philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood . . . If we keep the same economic system, if we keep the same political system, if we don’t give people their rights, why then was there a revolution and people lost their lives?” she asked.

The Egyptian constitution drafted by the Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood, was approved by a two-round referendum on Dec. 22 and signed into law by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi a few days later. The final text removed a clause that specifically guaranteed equality for women in the country and refers only to citizens, saying they are “equal before the law and equal in rights and obligations without discrimination.”

Confirmed to Family Sphere

The approved constitution states that honoring women is essential to a dignified nation. However, the text only refers to women as sisters and mothers, speaking of them purely within the framework of family and not offering room for women in the political and societal spheres.

Article 10, which states that family is the basis of society, and is founded on religion, ethics (morality) and patriotism, says the state will provide mother and child services for free and guarantees women access to health, social, economic care, inheritance rights and harmony between her family duties and public life.

Abdallah said that the Arabic version of the constitution is full of contradictions regarding the notion of equality and freedom, which are emphasized in the English version.

For example in the Arabic version, article 43 guarantees freedom of belief and article 45 guarantees freedom of thought and opinion, but article 44 prohibits insulting prophets. This blasphemy clause is inherently contradictory to the rights guaranteed by its adjacent articles, important to the secularists.

Article 44 has sparked concern as the number of trials for blasphemy has been on the rise in Egypt over the last few months.

Abdallah said the constitution is also dangerous because it maintains the right of military courts to judge civilians and the misuse of Islamic laws. When religion enters into the political sphere, she said, “you can easily manipulate people and that’s why it’s important to remove the religious dimension from the formula. That’s not the duty of the government to tell us how to worship God or how to pray.”

“I have seen in many places around the world where Islam and religion are being used to abuse women and minorities’ rights,” she added.

A Significant Gain

But while the constitution has spread widespread disappointment, women do have one significant legal gain to celebrate. Since the revolution, Egyptian women have begun daring to bring cases of sexual harassment to court.

Samira Ibrahim paved the way after soldiers detained her on March 2011 and subjected her and other female protesters to forced “virginity tests” for protesting in Cairo’s Tahrir Square against Mubarak’s regime. The 25-year-old marketing manager sued the military, and last year a civilian judge ruled the humiliating practice illegal. However, in March, a military tribunal acquitted the doctor who allegedly performed the “virginity tests.” Ibrahim has sworn to pursue the case using international law.

On Nov. 13, an Egyptian man was sentenced to two years in prison and fined a further 2,000 Egyptian pound ($328) for sexually assaulting a woman in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo, in July of last year. The verdict was seen as a small victory for women.

Harassment of women is legendary in Egypt, but silence has been the rule as women feared to bring “dishonor” and “shame” upon their families. With the revolution, the underreported phenomenon has come under the international spotlight as women, including many foreign female reporters, were sexually attacked in Tahrir Square.

The National Council of Women Chief Mervat Tallawy said recently that Egyptian women are harassed on average seven times every 200 meters (656 feet).

Hajer Naili is a New-York based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa.

 

Egypt: The Next India or the Next Pakistan?


By , NYT
Published: December 15, 2012 

I WANT to discuss Egypt today, but first a small news item that you may have missed.

Josh Haner/The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

Go to Columnist Page »
Three weeks ago, the prime minister of India appointed Syed Asif Ibrahim as the new director of India’s Intelligence Bureau, its domestic intelligence-gathering agency. Ibrahim is a Muslim. India is a predominantly Hindu country, but it is also the world’s third-largest Muslim nation. India’s greatest security threat today comes from violent Muslim extremists. For India to appoint a Muslim to be the chief of the country’s intelligence service is a big, big deal. But it’s also part of an evolution of empowering minorities. India’s prime minister and its army chief of staff today are both Sikhs, and India’s foreign minister and chief justice of the Supreme Court are both Muslims. It would be like Egypt appointing a Coptic Christian to be its army chief of staff.

“Preposterous,” you say.

Well, yes, that’s true today. But if it is still true in a decade or two, then we’ll know that democracy in Egypt failed. We will know that Egypt went the route of Pakistan and not India. That is, rather than becoming a democratic country where its citizens could realize their full potential, instead it became a Muslim country where the military and the Muslim Brotherhood fed off each other so both could remain in power indefinitely and “the people” were again spectators. Whether Egypt turns out more like Pakistan or India will impact the future of democracy in the whole Arab world.

Sure, India still has its governance problems and its Muslims still face discrimination. Nevertheless, “democracy matters,” argues Tufail Ahmad, the Indian Muslim who directsthe South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, because “it is democracy in India that has, over six decades, gradually broken down primordial barriers — such as caste, tribe and religion — and in doing so opened the way for all different sectors of Indian society to rise through their own merits, which is exactly what Ibrahim did.”

And it is six decades of tyranny in Egypt that has left it a deeply divided country, where large segments do not know or trust one another, and where conspiracy theories abound. All of Egypt today needs to go on a weekend retreat with a facilitator and reflect on one question: How did India, another former British colony, get to be the way it is (Hindu culture aside)?

The first answer is time. India has had decades of operating democracy, and, before independence, struggling for democracy. Egypt has had less than two years. Egypt’s political terrain was frozen and monopolized for decades — the same decades that political leaders from Mahatma Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh “were building an exceptionally diverse, cacophonous, but impressively flexible and accommodating system,” notes the Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond, the author of “The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World.”

Also, the dominant political party in India when it overthrew its colonial overlord “was probably the most multiethnic, inclusive and democratically minded political party to fight for independence in any 20th-century colony — the Indian National Congress,” said Diamond. While the dominant party when Egypt overthrew Hosni Mubarak’s tyranny, the Muslim Brotherhood, “was a religiously exclusivist party with deeply authoritarian roots that had only recently been evolving toward something more open and pluralistic.”

Moreover, adds Diamond, compare the philosophies and political heirs of Mahatma Gandhi and Sayyid Qutb, the guiding light of the Muslim Brotherhood. “Nehru was not a saint, but he sought to preserve a spirit of tolerance and consensus, and to respect the rules,” notes Diamond. He also prized education. By contrast, added Diamond, “the hard-line Muslim Brotherhood leaders, who have been in the driver’s seat since Egypt started moving toward elections, have driven away the moderates from within their party, seized emergency powers, beaten their rivals in the streets, and now are seeking to ram a constitution that lacks consensus down the throats of a large segment of Egyptian society that feels excluded and aggrieved.”

Then there is the military. Unlike in Pakistan, India’s postindependence leaders separated the military from politics. Unfortunately, in Egypt after the 1952 coup, Gamel Abdel Nasser brought the military into politics and all of his successors, right up to Mubarak, kept it there and were sustained by both the military and its intelligence services. Once Mubarak fell, and the new Brotherhood leaders pushed the army back to its barracks, Egypt’s generals clearly felt that they had to cut a deal to protect the huge web of economic interests they had built. “Their deep complicity in the old order led them to be compromised by the new order,” said Diamond. “Now they are not able to act as a restraining influence.”

Yes, democracy matters. But the ruling Muslim Brotherhood needs to understand that democracy is so much more than just winning an election. It is nurturing a culture of inclusion, and of peaceful dialogue, where respect for leaders is earned by surprising opponents with compromises rather than dictates. The Nobel Prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen has long argued that it was India’s civilizational history of dialogue and argumentation that disposed it well to the formal institutions of democracy. More than anything, Egypt now needs to develop that kind of culture of dialogue, of peaceful and respectful arguing — it was totally suppressed under Mubarak —  rather than rock-throwing, boycotting, conspiracy-mongering and waiting for America to denounce one side or the other, which has characterized too much of the postrevolutionary political scene. Elections without that culture are like a computer without software. It just doesn’t work.

 

Egypt acquits ‘virginity test’ military doctor


Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press, Cairo | March 11, 2012

An Egyptian military tribunal on Sunday acquitted an army doctor of an accusation of public obscenity filed by a protester who claimed she was forced to undergo a virginity test while in detention.

The country’s revolutionary youth movement sees the claims of humiliating tests imposed on detained female protesters a one of the first indications that the generals who took over from Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 would continue the human rights abuses of the ousted president.

Samira Ibrahim, one of seven women who said they had been forced to undergo examinations to determine if they were virgins while detained by the military a year ago, won a civilian court ruling last year that affirmed the tests were taking place at military jails and ordered they be halted.

But military prosecutors investigating her accusations brought only one individual – the doctor – to trial. Ahmed Adel was acquitted. The court, whose verdict cannot be appealed, denied that such tests are carried out.

The military has been in power since Mubarak stepped down last year in the face of a popular uprising. The Mubarak-era generals who succeeded their former patron face accusations by rights activists of killing protesters, torturing detainees and trying at least 0,000 civilians in military tribunals.

Egypt’s official news agency said that Adel was acquitted because the testimonies of the witnesses for the plaintiff conflicted.

But the court’s insistence that no tests were ever conducted at all has raised doubts about the verdict.

“The court’s denial of the tests being conducted went against written testimonies of several public figures who discussed the issue with several of the ruling generals,” rights lawyer Adel Ramadan said.

Amnesty International said in June that Egypt’s generals have acknowledged carrying the tests on female protesters. It said Maj. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a member of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, justified the tests as a way to protect the army from rape allegations. The rights group said al-Sisi vowed the military would not again conduct such tests.

The “virginity test” allegations first surfaced after a March 9 rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, epicenter of last year’s uprising that turned violent when men in plainclothes attacked protesters and the army intervened forcefully to clear the square.

 

Egypt’s Artists Fear Censorship by Islamists


Feb13, 20122- Egypt’s revolution encouraged painters to shake off decades of censorship. But with Islamists gaining power, will provocative art soon be suppressed?

Sublimation is a psychological process in which socially unacceptable impulses are transformed into something less destructive, explains Weaam El-Masry, a fiery Egyptian artist, as she unloads a truckload of her watercolor nudes for sale in a central Cairo art gallery.

“Maybe you have something you want to say—maybe it’s sexual—but society suppresses it,” she says. “When it comes out in your art, that’s sublimation.”

Since the Arab Spring broke out in Egypt a year ago, the country’s art world has started to shake off decades of repression. Sexuality is more out in the open, as are deep-seated social problems such as poverty and corruption—subjects long off limits under former president Hosni Mubarak. Many artists, it seems, no longer feel obligated to cloak their politics in thick layers of allegory.

At Townhouse, a funky art gallery nestled in the heart of central Cairo, iconoclasm is now the rule rather than the exception. In December, the gallery opened D1sc0nN3ct, a dizzying collection of digital-media pieces by a handful of Egyptian artists. Featuring videogames that can’t be won and Web pages with faulty encryptions, the exhibition presents corruption—a debilitating ulcer in a society where you can’t get a driver’s license without paying a bribe—in a daringly critical light.

On the same night but in an adjacent space, the gallery headlined another bold exhibition titled The Politics of Representation. Composed entirely of campaign paraphernalia from the country’s ongoing parliamentary contest—the first since Mubarak’s ouster a year ago—the exhibit takes on the explosion of political activity that has rocked Egypt in recent months and reduces it to a maze of symbols, slogans, and glossy poster stock. According to William Wells, who founded Townhouse in 1998, the exhibition was conceived as an “interactive, real-time visual representation of the electoral process.”

Egyptian Artist Weaam El-Masry's Antsy Nudes

Read more here

Egypt’s Feminist Union Undergoing Reincarnation


By Jessica Gray
Monday, January 30, 2012

The venerable Egyptian women’s rights advocacy, the Egyptian Feminist Union, is coming back to life amid a flowering of civil-society groups. But the road ahead isn’t clear for a long-dormant organization that operated under British colonial rule. 

CAIRO, Egypt (WOMENSENEWS)–Grassroots organizations have been flowering in Egypt’s first post-revolutionary year and at least one is coming back to life.

The Egyptian Feminist Union, first founded in 1923, was shuttered just shy of 30 years later by the onset of Egyptian military rule. Now, after registering as a nonprofit a month ago, it is ramping up to give women the voice they’ve been lacking for so long, organizers say.

“We have to defend whatever rights we have and we have to go forward to equality and equity,” says Hoda Badran, chair of the group, which represents a collection of nongovernmental organizations tackling women’s issues in every governorate. “Women should have a say if any public issue or decision has to be made.”

That mission has been made harder, if anything, by recent events. Before the Jan. 25 revolution, Badran says, the country counted three female cabinet ministers.

“Later the military council came and now it’s been reduced to one. So we are going backwards,” she says.

Female demonstrators in the past year have also been targeted by security forces for virginity tests, electric shock, harassment, military tribunals and open brutality during December’s most recent clashes, centered in Cairo.
Little Action

Human rights groups and women’s organizations have fiercely objected but little action has been taken against the accused perpetrators.

The National Council for Women, a state-run group, has said little and been criticized for trying to monopolize the handling of women’s issues and stifling other organizations.

In 1952, Egypt’s armed forces wrested control of the country away from Britain, ending decades of colonization. To secure control of the Arab world’s largest country, Egyptian generals introduced military rule and shut down many nongovernmental organizations, including the Feminist Union. At that time, the union’s mission focused on suffrage, universal education and equality under the nation’s personal status laws.

Badran has a long history of taking up such causes. In the past, she served as president of the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of the Child for two terms and is a member of numerous sustainable development, cultural and child protection organizations and councils in Egypt. She has two bachelors of science degrees — one in sociology from the American University in Cairo and the other in social work from Helwan University — and also serves as president of the Alliance for Arab Women, a Cairo-based organization that has operated throughout Egypt since 1987 to educate and train women on their rights.

She says Egyptian women have won some rights since the 1950s, including the right to vote in 1956. But compared to their male counterparts, they remain undereducated, underemployed, politically unorganized, underrepresented in government and experience more extreme rates of poverty.

Women make up only 1 percent of parliament’s 500 or so members. No women are in charge of running the country’s almost 30 governorates.

Badran hopes to change these trends, but knows it will not be easy since the union’s new status is still in its infancy.

Its first project focused on encouraging women to vote or run in Egypt’s first parliamentary polls, just completed, since the fall of deposed President Hosni Mubarak.

Mohamed Zaree, a program manager for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, says the recent parliament elections make it a good time to refocus on women’s issues and to bring human rights to the table.

“Now is the time for that conversation because the members of parliament are [accountable] to voters and could play an active role in the promotion of human rights,” Zaree says.

While it looks for funding, the union has been planning its activities from the Alliance for Arab Women’s office in downtown Cairo. It is set to hold a women’s forum in the next few months to gather groups and discuss its future as Egypt takes its first steps toward democracy.

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