Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) has released a new paper, entitled “Protecting Women from Violent Crimes in National Laws and Legislations”. The paper has been written in partnership with the Ministry of Justice’s Human, Women and Child Rights Sector.
It aims to shed light on the current legislative framework for the protection of women, as enshrined in Egypt’s constitution. This framework has been put in place as part of the country’s national strategies and the ratified conventions it abides by.
It comes in conjunction with the celebrations that are currently taking place to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which takes place on 25 November every year. It also marks the start of 16 days of activities to combat violence against women, which will continue until 10 December.
“The Egyptian state has committed to strengthening the protection of women and ensuring their right to all kinds of protection,” the paper said, “Work is still underway towards achieving further reforms and legislative amendments, to provide a comprehensive legal framework for women to protect them from all forms of violence and discrimination.”
The NCW said that the file offering legal protection for women receives special attention, and is at the forefront of the Egyptian state’s plans and strategies. It looks to develop and adopt the appropriate legislation and executive procedures that will effectively protect women from all forms of violence.
Human rights in their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions are the cornerstone determining the general appliance of international human rights standards.
In accordance with international human rights laws, women’s rights are closely related to the right to equality and non-discrimination. This is one of the basic principles that dominates all women’s civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. It also occupies the forefront of all United Nations (UN) charters, foremost of which is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in international and regional human rights conventions.
Legal protection begins in constitutional provisions
The paper noted that the legal protection for women begins in the provisions of the Egyptian Constitution that affirm the protection of human rights in general and the rights of women in particular.
The 2014 Constitution includes articles for citizenship and equality between Egyptian citizens and the criminalisation of discrimination, which is directly reflected in the status of the country’s womenfolk. The first article of the constitution stipulates that the state system is based on citizenship.
Article 9 obliges the state to put in place equal opportunities among citizens without any discrimination. The concepts of citizenship, tolerance and non-discrimination have also been established, and have become the goals of education. The article stipulates human rights should be taught in universities, which will create a generation respectful of women’s rights, and which is based on equality and real citizenship.
Article 11 of the Constitution says, “The state guarantees equality between men and women in all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. The state shall take measures to ensure adequate representation of women in the prosecution councils, in the manner specified by law, as well.”
It adds, “Women are guaranteed their right to assume public positions and higher management positions in the state and to be appointed to judicial authorities and bodies without discrimination against them. The state is obliged to protect women against all forms of violence, and guarantees empowering women to reconcile the duties of the family and the requirements of work. It is also committed to providing care and protection for motherhood, childhood, breadwinning women, the elderly, and the neediest women.”
Article 53 defines discrimination that is criminalised in many articles of the Constitution as that which occurs due to religion, belief, gender, origin, race, colour, language, disability, geographical location, social level, political affiliation, or any other reason.
Article 59 guarantees a safe life as a right for every human being, and obliges the state to provide security and tranquillity for its citizens.
Article 89 prohibits all forms of slavery, oppression and forced exploitation of people, as well as the prohibition of the sex trade and other forms of human trafficking.
Egyptian laws and legislations
Egypt’s Penal Code criminalises various forms of violence, including beating, wounding, discrimination or psychological violence, including insults and insulting a person and assaulting personal rights and freedoms. These all form crimes under Articles 171, 161 bis, 176, 240, 241, 242, 307, 308, and 375 of the Penal Code.
These provisions apply strictly to those who commit these crimes, with no leniency given based on gender.
Articles related to harassment, rape, and indecent assault have been amended in the Penal Code according to Law No 11 of 2011, with Articles 267, 268, 269, 269 bis, 289 and 306 bis having been amended.
The paper also highlighted the legislation and legal framework in terms of sexual harassment.
Article 306 bis (A) states, “The person who exposes themselves to another in a public or private place, harasses or conducts any sexual or pornographic matters either through suggestions, or hints, whether by gesture, verbal, or action by any means, including wired or wireless means of communication, shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of not less than six months and a fine of not less than EGP 3,000 and not more than EGP 5,000, or by one of these two penalties.”
The article also says that the punishment shall be imprisonment for a period of at least 12 months, and a fine of between EGP 5,000 and EGP 10,000. One of these two penalties will be given if the victim pursues and takes the perpetrator to court.
If the harasser is caught repeating the crime, the imprisonment and fine penalties are doubled in their minimum and maximum limits.
The paper outlined the treatment of and punishment for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) under Egyptian law, stating that an amendment to the Penal Code was issued in 2008 to criminalise the action.
In 2016, the law on FGM was amended to stipulate that whoever performs the activity shall be imprisoned for five to seven years. This relates to the circumcision of a female by partially or completely removing any of the external genitalia, or inflicting injuries to those organs without medical justification.
The crime has also been raised from a misdemeanour to a felony, with the penalty for FGM reaching up to 15 years if it leads to permanent disability or death.
Legislators have introduced a new crime, according to Article 242 bis A, which indicates a punishment of imprisonment for the person requesting that FGM take place, and if the crime is carried out at their request.
The law on rape
Article 267 of Egypt’s Penal Code criminalises rape, and states that the maximum penalty for this crime is life imprisonment, which carries a sentence of up to 25 years or the death penalty.
The penalty has been increased in certain of the following cases: the victim is a minor, and therefore below the age of 18; the perpetrator is one of her relatives, and is responsible for raising or caring for her, or has authority over her (practically or educationally); the victim is working as a paid servant or the rape is committed by two or more persons.
Article 267 of the penal code criminalises sexual molestation by force, and sets the penalty to imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years. The penalty for indecent assault is increased to rigorous imprisonment if the victim is a minor, or the accused is one of her relatives or responsible for her upbringing. The penalty also applies to someone with authority over the victim, or if the victim was working as a paid servant. The penalty is life imprisonment if two of the aggravating circumstances combine.
The legislator has said that the act of indecent assault does not necessarily require force, and specified that it is based on three pillars: the first is an outrageous act violating modesty; the second is the criminal intent; and the third is the age of the victim. The law has imposed a more severe punishment against the perpetrator if the victim is under eighteen years of age.
Article 269 states, “Whoever sexual molests a boy or girl who has not yet reached the age of eighteen years, without force or threat, he shall be punished with imprisonment, and if the victim is under the age of twelve, the penalty shall be rigorous imprisonment for a period of not less than seven years.”
Public, non-public indecent acts
Article 278 of Egypt’s Penal Code criminalises public and private acts of indecency, with both punishable by imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year and a fine.
Article 279 criminalises committing any act of indecency with a woman, even if it is not enacted in public, with the penalty imprisonment for a maximum of one year and a fine.
Abortion, intransigence in paying alimony
Articles 260, 261, 263, and 264 punish abortion with imprisonment and rigorous imprisonment.
Article 293 of the Penal Code has been amended by Law No. 6 of 2020, to confront those evading the payment of alimony or intransigence in paying the debts of expenditures. The aim of the amendment is to take care of the family, whilst also securing sources of livelihood, and to ensure a decent life is provided.
The amendment to Article 293 is to increase the fine from EGP 500 to EGP, 5,000 for anyone who refuses to pay alimony.
Husbands will be unable to receive services from government agencies, public bodies, public sector units, the public business sector, and agencies that perform public utility services until he pays the delayed alimony in his liability for the wife and the Nasser Social Bank, depending on the case. The decision relating to suspension and termination, as well as determining these, shall be issued by the Minister of Justice in agreement with the competent ministers.
The lawsuit is filed based on a complaint from the person concerned, and if a second lawsuit for this crime is filed after the ruling against him, then his penalty will be imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year.
Despite this paper, Egypt’s political parties and human rights activists demanded the prompt implementation of a unified law to combat all forms of violence against women.