Addressing Violence Against Women in Egypt: Legal Frameworks

Sent On: 
Thu, 2017-12-07
Newsletter Number: 




Women protesting in Egypt, Vimeo.


On Sunday, December 3rd, a number of women’s organizations held a press conference to announce a legal proposal addressing the prevalence of violence against women in Egypt. With this in mind, we think this an opportune occasion to address the relationship between the legal domain and violence against women in Egypt. What potential does the law have to tangibly reduce the incidence of violence against women? What are the limits of the legal reform process in defining, criminalizing, and prosecuting violence against women?

“The Egyptian constitution is very clear about the equality of women,” says Samar Roushdy, an expert on legal aspects related to women’s rights in the MENA region and Youth Policies Coordinator at the League of Arab States. “Despite the constitution’s presets, there are several laws discriminating against women,” clarifies Roushdy, however, specifically mentioning the penal and personal status codes.


For example, Roushdy drew attention to Article 17 of the Egyptian penal code, which gives judges the right to severely decrease perpetrators’ sentences in cases related to “honor.” As such, this legal caveat allows many criminals, often convicted of crimes related to sexual harassment, assault, and/or rape, to escape lengthy sentences with a small fine or minimal jail time.


Addressing issues related to violence against women and legislation in Egyptian society is not easy: “a problem has to be translated to the people, so that they will understand it better,” says Roushdy when asked about the strategies she recommends to raise awareness about women’s issues in Egypt, “civil society, however, can create a momentum. And this can raise awareness.”


Roushdy also underlined the importance of ensuring that the rule of law is respected in Egypt. New and preexisting legal precepts have little effect if they are not implemented, or if their implementation is not adequately monitored by relevant authorities. “Law makers are not only concerned with legislating laws, but also with monitoring the law, and this is even more important.”


Women throughout Egypt are strongly discriminated against throughout all levels of socio-economic participation: poor access to higher education (especially in rural areas), few formal sector employment opportunities, lower salaries, and an overarching cultural bias against women’s social and political empowerment.


Read the full report here.


Cairo, 7 December 2017


Salma Khamis and Jasper Kiepe


This article is the second installment in a three-part series: In the first article, we gave an overview on the situation in Egypt. In this piece, we examine the legal frameworks defining the definition, criminalization, and prosecution of cases related to violence against women in Egypt. The final article will feature testimonials from survivors and experts regarding their own experiences.