Draft Decree-Law no. /2014 of the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt on the promulgation of the Law on Regulating the Exercise of Some Political Rights, as put forth for social dialogue by the National Council for Human Rights

Joint Statement

29 May 2014

Continued Disregard for the Situation of Women in the Upcoming Parliamentary Elections

The signatories hereto have taken notice of the draft decree-law the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt on the promulgation of the Law on Regulating the Exercise of Some Political Rights, as received by the National Council for Human Rights from the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.

The signatories express their deepest concern about the proposed amendments, having not taken into account the situation of women, and the challenges facing them with respect to political participation. We believe that the disregard for the demands of feminist and Women's Rights groups and organizations undermines the political representation of women, in terms of their representation in the committees supervising the electoral process. The signatories had demanded, upon the formation of the General Secretariat of the Supreme committee for Elections, demanded that the committee include women among its members, stressing the necessity of giving the due attention to having female members as representatives of judicial authorities and bodies, and the Administrative Prosecution Service, upon the approval of their respective supreme councils, as well as representatives of the relevant ministries as determined by the Supreme Committee to be selected by the competent ministers. This demand was overlooked in the provisions of article 11 of the Draft-Law, since the constitutional obligations laid down in article 11 of the constitution, granting women the right to be represented in judicial authorities and bodies, is yet to be implemented. Despite being a constitutional entitlement for women under the new constitution, the representation of women is met with adamant intransigence by judicial authorities, and thus women will not be represented in the Supreme Committee except through the judicial bodies that have female judges among their ranks, such as the Administrative Prosecution Service. Also, in the context of enlisting specialized experts for assistance in any of the affairs of the General Secretariat, due attention should be given to including female experts on Women's issues and political participation.

Article 40, on the composition of General Committees and Subcommittees, required the inclusion of one woman in each General Committee or Subcommittee, which is considered a very low level of representation. The signatories hereto demand that women be fairly represented as members in the Technical Secretariat that will assist the Supreme Committee in managing the electoral process. Female judges and members of staff who will participate in the supervision over the electoral process must also be protected against any violations they might be exposed to, particularly all forms of violence against women. They should also be provided with decent accommodation and work conditions.

Furthermore, article 31, on prohibited campaigning activities, failed to provide for aggravated penalties for violation of the rights of female candidates, being the most vulnerable group with respect to libel, slander, and violation of personal life, both verbally and in writing. Sexual violence against women in the public space should also be added to the prohibited campaigning activities listed under article 32 of the draft law in 8 items, item 3 of which providing for the prohibition of the use or threatening to use violence, overlooking the various forms of violence against women, particularly sexual violence.

With regard to media coverage, article 32 paid no attention to the situation of women, being the least likely to receive media attention as candidates. The signatories, therefore, believe that the law should provide for the need to allocate more space for covering the electoral campaigns of female parliamentary candidates, in the context of societal support and promotion of the participation of women, and to implement the principle of equality of opportunities between male and female candidates with respect to access to different media outlets. An aggravated penalty should be imposed for any media coverage violating the rights of female candidates, whether by libel, ridicule or violation of private life, in a way that may undermine their private lives. Different media outlets should devote adequate space for the introduction to the voters of the electoral system to be implemented, particularly that system adopted a quota for women in the absolute closed lists provided for by the draft of the new law on the House of Representatives, so that voters may choose on the basis of a clear understanding of the electoral system.

We also make notice of the prohibition of using woman as a voting bloc directed for a particular candidate, and imposing an aggravated penalty on those who commit this violation. The signatories demand that opinion surveys provide gender-segregated data so as to measure the participation of women and their percentage as a voting bloc.

Article 38 of the draft law addressed the role of civil society in following the electoral process without providing for controls with respect to protecting the monitors of local and international CSOs from any violation, allowing these CSOs to observe the elections, and protecting them from administrative arbitrariness.

In conclusion, the signatories demand that the promulgation of the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights and the Law on the House of Representatives be postponed till after the Presidential Elections, so that they are put forth for serious social dialogue with all concerned partied before beng promulgated by the new president.    

Signatories [in Arabic alphabetical order]:
1- The Egyptian Women Union (under establishment).
2- The Egyptian CEDAW Coalition.
3- Baheya Foundation for Culture and Citizenship.
4- Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement.
5- Daughter of the Land Association.
6- Al-Dostour Party.
7- Bread and Freedom Party (under establishment).
8- The Egyptian Social Democratic Party.
9- Freedom Egypt Party.
10-The Cairo Center for Development and Human Rights.
11-  Appropriate Communication Tools for Development Association (ACT).
12- Enlightened Egypt Foundation.
13- Legal Foundation for Family Assistance and Human Rights.
14- The Egyptian Foundation for Family Development.
15- Helwan Foundation for Community Development "Bashayer".
16- Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance.
17- Nazra for Feminist Studies.