Woman Right in Egypt Constitution

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Women’s rights in Egypt’s draft constitution—that Egyptians will vote for or against in a public referendum in December 15—is one of the most debated issues among supports and opponents of the constitution. Opponents of the draft constitution argue that it undermines women’s basic rights and freedoms. Its supporters, on the other hand, claim that it protects women’s rights, respect, and equality.

In a recent article, I have studied “Minorities and Freedoms in Egypt’s Draft Constitution”.  I believe that hot issues such as women, human respect, justice, citizenship, etc., deserve in-depth studies and readings in order to fairly evaluate the controversial draft that prompted widespread protests across Egypt. It is not fair, of course, to judge something without having a clear perception of it. So, I would cite and study some articles that focus on women’s rights and position in Egypt’s draft constitution to pave the way for better understanding of it.

Honor and Respect

Women, like men, have the full right for honor and respect. All world religions and conventions agree on this principle. In the introductory section, which outlines the basic concepts and principles of the draft constitution, it is stated:

The individual’s dignity is an extension of the nation’s dignity. Further, there is no dignity for a country in which women are not honored; women are the sisters of men and partners in all national gains and responsibilities.

This principle in Egypt’s draft constitution does protect women’s honor and dignity. The above-mentioned maxim “there is no dignity for a country in which women are not honored” clearly assures the State’s and the society’s duties in preserving women’s honor and respect. It is illegal and a punishable crime—by virtue of the above principle—to disgrace or underestimate women in Egypt. Women, moreover, are men’s counterparts and partners who share national gains and responsibilities.

Interestingly, these values and rights of women are well-established in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said in a hadith, “Women are men’s counterparts.” (Abu Dawud, Sunan, hadith no. 236)

A woman in the Muslim society enjoys high respect and honor by merits of religious, social, cultural, and legal norms. The noble Qur’an commands husbands to deal honorably and kindly with their wives, saying, {And live with them (your wives) honorably.} (An-Nisa’ 4: 19) Therefore, a woman—whether a baby, girl, sister, wife, mother, etc.—should be greatly respected and honored.

Equality

Equality for all citizens—men and women–in Egypt is assured and maintained throughout the draft constitution. Women, therefore, enjoy as equal rights as men. It is clearly stated at the very beginning of the draft constitution that “equality before the law and equal opportunities for all citizens, men and women, without discrimination or favoritism” are guaranteed.

In fact, both women and men are equal in Islam. So, Islamic Shari`ah never discriminates between people, men and women. This fact is clear in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). For instance, the noble Qur’an unequivocally emphasizes that men and women are equal: {O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.} (Al-Hujurat 49: 13)

In his well-reputed book, Islam in Focus, Hammudah Abdalati Abd Alati says,

The rights and responsibilities of a woman are equal to those of a man but they are not necessarily identical with them. Equality and sameness are two quite different things. This difference is understandable because man and woman are not identical but they are created equals. With this distinction in mind, there is no problem. It is almost impossible to find two identical men or women.

This distinction between equality and sameness is of paramount importance. Equality is desirable, just, fair; but sameness is not. People are not created identical but they are created equals. With this distinction in mind, there is no room to imagine that woman is inferior to man. There is no ground to assume that she is less important than he just because her rights are not identically the same as his. Had her status been identical with his, she would have been simply a duplicate of him, which she is not. The fact that Islam gives her equal rights – but not identical – shows that it takes her into due consideration, acknowledges her, and recognizes her independent personality.

Support for Working, Divorced, and Widowed Women

Egypt’s draft constitution guarantees full support for working, divorced, and widowed women. The State, therefore, will maintain social and financial support for women in a way that preserves their life, honor, dignity, and wellbeing. Article No. 10 reads:

The State shall ensure maternal and child health services free of charge, and enable the reconciliation between the duties of a woman towards her family and her work.

The State shall provide special care and protection to female breadwinners, divorced women and widows.

Given the above, decent and honorable life for women, like all citizens, will be maintained and promoted by the constitution. This way, the Egyptian society, with its various cultures and faith communities, could enjoy social justice and solidarity. Women and men, whether young or aged, will have equal rights to their country’s public resources and properties.

In conclusion, I see that Egypt’s draft constitution has many points that deserve study and reading. Women’s rights are generally promoted in a way that preserves their dignity, honor, and equality with men. Moreover, Egyptian women, as well as men, have the opportunity to shape their future and freely vote for or against the draft constitution. This manifests women’s real participation in the political and social life in life in Egypt.

Dr. Wael Shihab has a PhD in Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University and is the Head of the Shari`ah and Fatwa sections at the English web site of Onislam.net.  You may reach him at this e-mail address: wael.shihab@onislam.net.

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5 thoughts on “Woman Right in Egypt Constitution

    arkenaten said:
    December 18, 2012 at 1:55 AM

    http://world.time.com/2012/12/09/womens-rights-at-odds-in-egypts-constitution-wars/

    In conclusion, I see that Egypt’s draft constitution has many points that deserve study and reading. Women’s rights are generally promoted in a way that preserves their dignity, honor, and equality with men.”

    “Of its 236 articles or paragraphs, Article 2 cites Islamic law as “the principle source of legislation,” while Article 4 gives the role of interpreting that law not to the courts, but to Islamic scholars at Cairo’s al-Azhar University. Those scholars are not mentioned in Egypt’s 1971 constitution, which is now being replaced, although the old document does state that “the principles of Shari‘a are the main source of legislation.”

    If Shari law has anything to do with the Egyptian constitution then your statemen is fallacious. There is NO democracy in a theocracy.
    Ask your wife…

      hifzan shafiee responded:
      December 18, 2012 at 8:05 AM

      Oh, I ask my wife, she said “we are living in 2 different world”.

      So, she further said “If you think you are better, than write a constitution’s proposal which everyone can agreed. A person who don’t have a solution is as good as nothing”.

        arkenaten said:
        December 18, 2012 at 4:51 PM

        Any Law that is based on a religious book, written by men who can dictate to women is mysogenistic and less than useless.It is barbaric andimmoral.It is hypocrisy to claim otherwise.
        If women had no doubts about the Egyptian constitution then why were they demonstrating?
        Your answer is polemic based on religious inculcation. The same mind numbing nonsens that sees people murder each other in the name of religion.
        Who blows up mosques? Other Muslims. Is this good? Is this right?
        They think so based on their own interpretation of Islamic Law.

        The solution. Do away with religion – ALL religion. It is as simple as that.

        hifzan shafiee responded:
        December 18, 2012 at 6:14 PM

        If you have already have “a set of mind” in your head. Then, why I should bother to answer it.
        If you think that religion that cause all the chaos, that is your call, not mine.

        As Egypt have call for voting. For me, I should just wait and see the result. The result will show which direction they want to select.

        We just life in 2 different side of world.

        arkenaten said:
        December 18, 2012 at 6:37 PM

        My mindset is based on the evidence. If Egypt’s constitution tolerates any Islamic law that compromises women in any way then you, as a man, should hang your head in shame.

        If you wish to submit to the will of an imaginary god and allow men to write laws that may affect your wife in any way that is negative or unequal to your status then you are not a man, but rather a slave.

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