CAIRO: Despite news that the Muslim Brotherhood will be fielding more female candidates in the 2010 parliamentary elections to benefit from a new law granting women a minimum of 64 seats at the People’s Assembly (PA), some members of the group are skeptical of the newly passed law.
The law, which was drafted by the ruling National Democratic Party and approved by the Shoura Council on Saturday, sets a quota for female representation, adding 32 new electoral constituencies that would only accept the applications of female candidates.
Each constituency is to be represented by two MPs.
However, during the meeting between the PA’s legislative committee and the Shoura Council on Saturday, some Brotherhood MPs voiced their concerns.
Brotherhood MP Ragab Abou Zeid said the law discriminates between men and women, while “Islam has never differentiated between men and women. On the contrary, Islam has many times described women . as equal to men in rights.
“We do not disagree with the right for women to fully participate in political and legislative life, but this has to happen without violating the constitution, he said.
According to Abou Zeid the new law violates articles 5 and 83 of the Egyptian constitution stipulating that all Egyptians are equal in opportunities and outlaws gender-based discrimination.
Fellow Brotherhood MP Ahmed Abou Barkah added that the weakness of Egypt’s political parties is the main reason behind women’s low participation in political life.
On the other hand, Mofid Shehab, Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said that if this law contradicts the principle of citizenship, then, by the same token, the law stipulating that half the number of MPs should either be workers or farmers would also be in violation of the constitution.
According to the PA’s by-laws, half the number of MPs must represent workers and farmers. This law has been in place since 1964, in the aftermath of Egypt’s 1952 military coup.
Farkhonda Hassan, secretary general of the National Council for Women (NCW) and chair of the Committee for Human Resources Development at the Shoura Council, debated whether the new law is an essential tool for activating women’s rights or merely a token gesture.
In response, Speaker of Shoura Council Safwat Al-Sharif, said that, “The new law expresses the government’s deep appreciation of women.
The new law is “temporary positive discrimination in order to support women’s role in the legislative arena, he added.
It is expected to last for two successive parliamentarian sessions, that is, 10 years, after which it will be rescinded and female candidates will compete against men organically, without special regulations.
The current law does not prevent other female candidates from running in traditional constituencies to compete against men during elections.