By: Alexandra Kinias
Another black day befell upon the women in Egypt; just few days after the country received a recommendation from the United Nations Human Right Council in Geneva to end discrimination against women.
The painful smack to their dignity was received on Feb 15, 2010, when members of the State Council, the highest legal body in the country, voted with an overwhelming majority (334 out of 380 judges) against the appointment of women judges to the council. The barring to hire women was not only a classic case of gender based discrimination, but it was also unconstitutional.
Since the issue became a social controversy, Muslim conservatives announced that religion does not doubt women’s ability to become judges, thus washing their hands off the blame for such a decision and shifting it to the society to deal with the judges. Apparently Muslim conservatives had forgotten the controversy they stirred few years back when they openly denounced the concept, and approval and blessing of the Sheikh al Azhar, Mohamed Sayed Tantawy, to hire a woman judge in the Supreme Council, and accused him of being a puppet of the regime. This war ended in 2003 when the first female judge in the history of modern Egypt, Tahani al Guibali, was appointed by a presidential decree.
Women and minorities are becoming victims of the social injustice that thrives in theocratic societies; a classic symptom of a society that is rotting from within. Egypt is not a theocratic state, well not yet, but the methodical winds of change are blowing in that direction. Invisible forces are pumping unlimited resources to bring that change. Egypt is going through a phase of transition, but unfortunately it points to regression. The flashing signs are evident everywhere, but meticulously ignored by an ailing regime.
Women in Egypt are caught between a rock and a hard place. The ridiculous reasons behind the overwhelmingly vote against hiring women judges in the State Council were both shocking and humiliating. They varied between questioning their abilities to rule, doubting their capabilities and integrity. My favorite excuse came from a member of the council who said that he feels shy among the company of female colleagues, given the long hours they spend on the job.
The differences between a society that flourishes and one that perishes in how each treats its women. Who will be held accountable one day when young girls are denied the privilege to dream of becoming future leaders — what rationalization are we going to give them other that the men were shy?