By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: On International Women’s Day, female members of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, said their views on women’s rights go beyond what is advocated by current international laws.
“Some may believe that our view of female participation in the political arena is not in line with [international laws] advocating women’s rights,” MP Manal Aboul Hassan, leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, said Thursday at a women’s conference organized by the FJP.
Aboul Hassan accused remnants of the former regime of supporting these international laws, adding that their “view of a female’s role goes beyond this limited view. …a female MP represents all Egyptians and serves the good of everyone.”
Some panelists slammed the National Council for Women, claiming that it serves foreign agendas and does not serve the real pressing needs of Egyptian women.
The Muslim Brotherhood called for dismantling the council and replacing it with a National Council for Families.
Abdallah Baga, head of the Family Appeals Court, said the current council does not address the problems of suburban women or illiteracy, adding that they served “foreign” agendas instead.
MP and FJP leader Hoda Youssef said that a woman’s role in society stems from her role within the family as a sister, mother, daughter and wife.
Youssef referred to “campaigns” supported by the ousted regime that aimed at breaking up Egyptian families by creating a state of conflict between men and women and undermining the sanctity of marriage.
Youssef added that labor and housing laws made it difficult for youth to get married and establish stable homes.
Divorce rates in Egypt have reached 50 percent, according to the panelists.
Youssef gave examples on how school curriculums encourage girls to abandon their role in taking care of their families, and instead taking on more male-oriented jobs.
MP Mohamed El-Beltagi opened the session stressing that this conference does not fuel conflict between men and women but encourages cooperation and joint responsibility in developing the country and complementing each other’s roles.
He said that the former regime marginalized women, adding that after the Jan. 25 revolt, women worked hand in hand with men to build the country.
“[Women will participate] according to the Egyptian agenda, not an agenda enforced by the women’s office in the United Nations,” he said.
Aboul Hassan reiterated that men and women complement each other in their responsibilities and duties, shedding light on the obstacles facing Egypt during the transition period.
“We have to activate the roles of the People’s Assembly and Shoura Council in monitoring and participating in drafting the constitution to guarantee the people’s rights and duties,” she said.
Women represent less than 2 percent of the current parliament. There are four female MPs from the FJP, which enjoys a majority of seats in both the upper and lower houses of parliament.
Aboul Hassan said that female MPs are part of several sub-committees within the PA including the agricultural, media, tourism, religion, education and legislative committees.
She added that they played a role in amending the presidential law including Articles 30 and 38 to guarantee the transparency of the upcoming elections slated for May 23–24.
The amendments were presented to the Supreme Constitutional Court to decide whether they are constitutional.
FJP MP Azza El-Garf said that female parliamentarians try to actively participate in the general PA meetings, which are aired live, but due to the large number of MPs, it has proven difficult.
“However, the real work is done with the sub-committees,” she said.
Regarding female representation in the Constituent Assembly, leading FJP member Ahmed Abou Baraka said that the presence of women does not guarantee women’s rights in the constitution.
He added that raising women’s awareness regarding their rights and their role in approving the constitution by voting in the referendum was key.
Abou Baraka explained that the Constituent Assembly does not have any power in approving the constitution, but merely drafting it and that the people will have the final say.
Aboul Hassan evaded a question by Daily News Egypt on how many women she believed should be represented in the Constituent Assembly which would draft the constitution.
Karima Al-Hifnawy, founder of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and member of the association of Egyptian Women for Change, was invited to the conference. She reiterated the Egyptian woman’s role in history including the 1919 Revolution.
“The community [comprises both] a man and a woman,” she said, citing the role of women in syndicates and calling for female representation in the Constituent Assembly.
At the end of the conference, some families of the martyrs who died during the 18-day revolt last year were honored.