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Outrage as Egypt mulls imposing male guardianship law

March 4, 2021 at 11:00 am

Egyptian women protest against child marriage in Cairo, Egypt on 4 October 2014 [GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images]

A draft bill allowing a woman’s father, brother or male guardian to sign marriage papers on her behalf or file a lawsuit to annul her marriage has sparked outrage in Egypt.

If approved, the draft Personal Status Law bill would strip women of their rights to custody of their children and stipulates a woman must seek the father’s permission before making any legal decision over the children.

It prevents a woman from owning her own home and removes her legal protection if a man asks her to leave the house.

It would also give male relatives the power to prevent women from travelling and curtails a woman’s right to register the birth of her child or obtain a passport for them.

Women also would have less power over decisions regarding their children’s education or medical care.

The draft law has sparked fierce debate with the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR) who said that even Saudi Arabia’s laws for women are more progressive.

READ: Further violations against women in Egypt’s Al-Qanater prison

The ECWR said the law reduces women to “machines for birthing children” and is based on a strict interpretation of Islam.

Rights groups are calling on the government to reject the amendments which were proposed on 23 February.

Last year, Egypt launched its own MeToo campaign triggered by dozens of rape and sexual assault accusations levelled against a former student Ahmed Zaki online.

Women in Egypt suffer widespread sexual harassment, yet they are often treated as the perpetrators by authorities rather than the victims whilst the real abusers often go unpunished.

Women are afraid to speak out as they are regularly blamed for “dressing provocatively”.

Over the summer last year justice for the victim of a gang rape at the luxury Fairmont Nile City Hotel in 2014 became a key part of this MeToo movement.

Egyptian authorities arrested several witnesses to the rape and imprisoned them for five months.