CAIRO: Women in Egypt have pursued professions as doctors, parliamentarians, and ministers, but until recently, they could not fill any senior judicial posts.
That is all about to change.
The Higher Judicial Council has initially approved a letter sent by the Minister of Justice Mamdouh Maraey requesting that women be allowed to assume posts as judges, Al Ahram newspaper reported Dec. 27.
Previously they were only allowed to be consultants on judiciary councils.
There have been three female judges appointed in previous years but only by specific presidential decree.
This latest ruling, if instated, would allow females to be judges in any courts without waiting for a higher decree.
Ayman Abdel Wahab, an expert from the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told The Daily Star Egypt that the reasons behind the development should be seen as a convergence of factors.
For one, he says there has been too much pressure from civil society and NGOs.
He adds that the government itself did not previously have the desire to elevate women s status in the judiciary. Supporting this view was the fatwa released by Al Azhar institution declaring it forbidden in Islam for females to judge between men.
But now, he says, the government is ready and willing, using women as a prime symbol of reform. It is very important for our government s international position, to appear developed Abdel Wahab told The Daily Star Egypt.
The same day the letter was approved, President Mubarak called for greater female representation in parliament in his presidential address.
According to Abdel Wahab, wider female appointments as judges will depend on their performance and experience.
It will lesson discrimination against women in society, he says. It will also enable [women] to have greater ambitions in the field.
Many judges and officials within the Ministry of Justice do not approve of female judges, however, an inside source told The Daily Star Egypt.
The Ministry of Justice could not be reached for comment.
With additional reporting from Ethar Shalaby