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Women's Rights in Egypt

Egypt like many other Islamic countries has been propagating discrimination against women over a long time. The status of women in the public sphere has never been upheld in the country’s history; men have been occupying most of the important and senior positions in the government and society. Since the ancient times, women in Egypt were made to believe that they are inferior to their male counterparts. Women and the girl child in general have never been given equal competing chances with males (library.cornell.edu).

From tender ages, women in Egypt are made to believe that nature defined their lives and they should always rally behind men. The climax of a woman’s life is when she gets married to a man who will in term come and dominate her life. Marriage in most Egyptian families especially those found in the rural areas are one-sided with women playing the most insignificant parts in their families (library.cornell.edu). Husbands are charged with the responsibilities of providing for their families while the wives are responsible for child bearing and rearing. Many women do not hold any jobs (fordham.edu). The woman’s respect is attached to the husband. If a woman bears kids outside wedlock she is regarded as a pervert and is segregated hence forth.

Presence of a man in the life of a woman is so important in this Islamic country, woman is supposed to have a single husband to whom she should be loyal to. The state laws and the social believes of the people have no room for a woman dating or marrying more than one human, this is considered to be a man’s territory. Women are allowed to divorce their male partners if they are not satisfied with the unions. In most societies especially those that are found in the rural areas divorce is unheard of, here women suffer at the mercies of their husbands. Whenever a woman succeeds in divorcing her husband, her social perception changes and she is considered as a rebel, she will most often be faced with resistances from men and even her women peers. Due to the mentalities, religion and traditions of the country, women have not been explicitly aggressive in property acquisition as the men are, as a result of these motives women own very little property in the countries while men own close to everything (library.cornell.edu).

Women in the Islamic world have been largely abused and oppressed due to the prevalence of the abusive Islamic laws popularly referred to as the Sharia laws. In Egypt however, this laws are not very popular and the practices that are promoted by the presence of these laws in a country are not common in Egypt; sex slavery and other inhuman conducts that are done against the women are common in countries such as Iran but he practice is either dismal or absent in this country. Like many other countries that are lead using the Islamic principals or the theocracy, the Egyptians value the boy child than the girl child and this has been a subject of conflicts in many families in the country. Men demand that they want their women to bear boys but women have no control over the kids they bear. However the health of the children and especially that of the girl child is assured by the well structured medical systems in the country, thus infant mortality in low also female Feticides are low in the country as compared to other Islamic countries (Marks 41).

Egyptian women were ready to be married after achieving the menstrual age, around 14 years. Women are considered to be married immediately they leave the custody of their fathers and are surrendered to the custody of another man. Divorces in the country on the other hand have been favoring men, although there have been changes over the years marriage still favors men. Most of the marriages in the country are traditional where the husband is required to pay a dowry when asking for the hand of a woman in marriage. After the dowry is settled, the woman becomes legally married to the man and is expected live with the same man for the rest of her life. Although the law does not allow wives to be beaten by their husbands, this practice has going on but cases are rare and scattered. The number of rapes in the country has been rising over the recent years; recent statistics shows that about 55 women are raped everyday. Although rape is a crime in the country, the society perception of rape as a misfortune rather than as a crime has been promoting the act. Sexual violence in the country has also been on the raise although many cases go unreported due to social perception and the desire of the victims to remain anonymous (Marks 41).

Sexuality/ Lesbianism

Most Islamic countries do not tolerate same sex relationships, consequently lesbians is abomination of the social practices. The laws in Egypt do not allow gay marriages or any sort of perversion in the society. However, there are a few rebels who practice lesbianism in the country, statistics show that most of the lesbians in the country are not native of Egypt but are from other parts of the world. Egypt like many other Islamic states does not allow prostitution within its boundaries; prostitution takes place although it is both against the Islamic laws and the states laws. Prostitutes in Egypt are scattered but due to the presence of foreigners in the country especially the tourism, they still find room in the society (Marks 39).

Although the government has put measures to curb the practice in the society, tourism and the efforts that are being put in place to encourage tourists to visit the country are hampering the efforts of the government and there are very many tourists who visit the Persian Gulf country to have encounter with the country’s prostitutes. Although the international community might not be impressed by crimination propagated by the government against the homosexuals, it has helped in maintenance of the social cohesion in the country; Egypt has never had homosexuality even in the ancient times, and its presence in the country could hamper the social cohesion and the traditions that have been celebrated for centuries, it is thus important for the government to protect its nationals and main the social norms as they have been know to exist (web.archive.org).

Women and religion

Most of the Egyptian citizens are of Arabian background and they mostly profess the Islamic religion. The traditions and the religious teachings of the Islamic religion are perceived as to be oppressive towards women. The religious dictates require women to stand by their men; women are not given major responsibilities in Islamic religion, but to uphold the religious teachings. Most of the oppressive gestures experienced by Muslim women are in some way extracts of the holy Koran. Fundamentalists have managed to propagate oppression against women by applying the sharia laws (Long 17). These laws are not supported by the Egyptian authorities and thus they are not popular in this country.

Oppression that has been directed towards women in Egypt can only be attributed to the traditions but not direct consequences of sharia laws. Groups that have been lobbying for the freedom of women around the country have been doing so by enlightening them on the various options that they are limited to by the tie of religious teachings, thus the groups have encouraged women to be loyal to the teaching of the holy book but at the same time practice liberty; religion should be for freedom not slavery (Long 18).

Women in Politics

In 1956 women in Egypt were give right to vote parliamentarians for the first time in history. Since then the rights of women in democracy have been growing tremendously, currently their women votes are highly regarded and any politician who wishes to win women votes must address their needs in his/her manifesto. In the recent years the number of women interested in political positions has been increasing and slowly men are getting used to the fact that women can make great leaders for their people are even casting their votes in favor of them. By 2009 women held about 18.2% of all elected positions in the country; this is an improvement to the percentage a decade ago but is still not sufficient to encourage women to participate in development and politics (stoa.org).  

There has been need for more women involvement of women in politics; women act as society moderators and regulators and their involvement will reduce conflicts and impunity in the country. Women shun politics because men made politics look like a physical gamble and thus have been scaring women that have shown interests in politics but will globalization and civilization the world politics are taking a different direction and women around the world, with Egypt included, are taking more strategic positions in politics (Lau 46).

Women's Work

For a long time working in the civil society was regarded as the sole responsibility of men in Egypt; tax drivers, workers in the clothe mills, the army and policy were held by men. Most Egyptian women have been staying at home instead of looking for jobs they rather have been tied with domestic chores. In 1996 only 18% of all women worked outside their homes, this is a very low percentage compared to history of the country and the level of literacy. However, the situation has been improving tremendously over the recent years; in 2004 for example the percentage of jobs held by women in the country had improved to 31%. United Nation has not provided an explanation for the changing trend in the society but it is emerging that the society is embracing the global changes that are swiping over the social set ups (stoa.org). Many women are marrying a decade later than their mothers did and thus they are giving themselves sometimes to work and acquire some assets. About 45% of women in the country are illiterate; this has been limiting them to poorly paid jobs. Many working women are attached to clothing industry that is less skilled and consequently most of them are poorly paid. If the level of literacy can be improved in the country the wages earned by women will also improve considerably. Education will also ensure women compete on equal grounds with men. The existing pay gaps between men and women in the country has never been a subject of discrimination but pure experience and skills; only training on professional courses will liberate women from the poorly paid jobs and place them on the same front as men (Lau 49).

The level of gender discrimination at work places has been decreasing over the years. Since ancient times, women were regarded as the weaker sex and were only allowed to tackle the easy tasks that were defined by the traditions as women’s responsibilities. The law of the land protects women worker like all other employees; they are entitled to 90 days maternity leave which is fully paid, women are also educated on the need to partake both prenatal and postnatal cares to protect the health of their babies (eipr.org). With globalization and technological development in the world, Egyptian women have also tried to invest in the developing technologies especially ICT and are currently taking a crucial position in the economic growth.

Although women’s welfare have been improving over the last decade, there is still a long way to go for the women to be at per with their ale counterpart in the country,. There are men organizations that rose at the onset of globalization and have been lobbying for the freedom of women, their efforts are starting to bear fruits  but it is not time to quit the fight but to intensify their efforts and ensure that all members of the society is involve the process of nation building (egyptology.com).

Reproductive Freedom

A recent survey conducted by the United Nations in Egypt showed that the government had failed in its responsibility in promoting freedom of women in family planning and reproductive health of women. The penal codes of the country does not allow abortion unless the situation is life threatening to the pregnant woman, other forms of abortions are prohibited by the law. Any physician, doctor, pharmacist and the pregnant woman are entitled to jail terms. If the health of the mother is in danger, the doctor is required to procure a safe abortion failure to which he can be prosecuted because his/her negligence may lead to the death of the woman.

Egypt was the first Islamic country to enact population control policies (eipr.org). 1962 the government resolved to reduce the fertility rate in the country, in 1965 a Council for Family Planning and population control was established in the country. The private sector has been supplying the public with contraceptives for sometime now. The poor women are not able to access the family planning services and as a result they have large and unplanned families, the upper class women in Egypt are able to access contraceptives and other family planning facilities available in the country.

Legislation was passed in 2008 that banned Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Egypt. However, FGM has been going on in the country despite efforts b y the government and other social groups that lobby for women’s rights in the country. Aids prevalence amongst women in Egypt is low with more than 90% of the women getting HIV while in their marriages. The low level of Aids in the country can be attributed to the religious teachings and the traditions that discourage promiscuity amongst the female members of the society. Although freedom of women in Egypt has not been upheld by the community for a long time, female health has not been jeopardized in anyway and consequently deaths that occur during delivery and other complications that come with pregnancy are not common in the country.

The Islamic teachings encourages women to be submissive to their male partners, men on their part have been oppressing women since the ancient times. Government has enacted new laws that discourage gender discrimination in the country. The UN and the UNICEF are the leading groups in a crusade to liberate women in Egypt. These international groups have been on the front line in the fight for the women right and also conduction of seminars aimed at enlightening women on their rights.

Women in Development

Although Egypt is classified as developing countries in the global economy, its economy is doing very well and the living standards of its citizens especially those living in the urban centers. However, the vast majority of the citizens live in the rural areas where living standards are way below the international average living standards. The country’s health policies have decreased mortality rate considerably, the average life expectancy standard at about 70 years. This figure is considerably high as compared to other developing countries in the world. With a population of about 60 million 99% of whom live along the banks of river Nile, the literacy level of Egypt is relative lower than it is expected, putting the country’s history into consideration (Saiz 49).

The literacy level is about 51.5%. The high life expectancy in the country can be attributed to adequate food supply, clean drinking water, and peace within the boundary of the country as well as organized health policies in the country. Life expectancy in the country can also be attributed to low prevalence of Aids in the country; there are between 3,000 and 14,000 people bearing the HIV (Saiz 50). This number is considerably low and has been maintained at this level by the government efforts and the traditions of the people of Egypt that do not promote promiscuity.

There are many development programs and groups both local and international that have been helping women come up with their own development groups. The USAID has been financing projects aimed at empowering Egyptian women for sometime; in 2007 it contributed around $2 billion towards development projects that are run by women. Women are also involved in agricultural projects that act as a source of income.

Egypt depends heavily on river Nile, it thus the well being of their environment and the banks of the river is essential to the entire population. The government has established measures that helps in ensuring soil erosion and environmental degradation are kept at bay, women have not been left behind in the urge to conserve their livelihood (egyptology.com). Women have become more vibrant in the recent years and their contribution to the economic development can not be underplayed.

Gender Equality Movements

The rights of every member of society are essential for overall harmony and tranquility in the public. Many women around the world have been undertaking gradual reforms over the last three decades. Women have been oppressed and discriminated against by their male counterparts. With civilization, men started realizing the importance of women in economic growth. In the recent years, women have been improving their involvement in politics however, there are few forces that have been decimating efforts; these forces are firmly founded on two concepts; traditions and the religion.

There are many women groups that are up-coming and they all have a common message to the leaderships; that women are not inferior to men. Women in western countries have been involved in all aspects of the economy over a long time and this explains the differences in the economies between regions. Egyptians should embrace every member of the society as equally important, whether poor or rich, male or female. By eradicating things that have been drawing the social development behind the country can manage to grow in unison and even encourage other countries in the region to reform their structures of governance.

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