CAIRO, EGYPT, February 16, 2010 – From January 15 to February 5 Karama sponsored a delegation of three representatives from Egyptian women’s rights groups to participate in the forty-fifth session on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) treaty held in Geneva.
The CEDAW treaty, first adopted in 1979, calls for regular reports by signatory governments to track progress towards implementing the agreement, and encourages NGOs and other civil society organizations to contribute to these progress reports.
Karama’s delegation this year consisted of Dr. Hoda Badran, Chairperson of the Alliance for Arab Women, Dr. Fatema Khafagy, head of the Ombudsperson Office of Egypt’s National Council for Women, and Dr. Azza Kamel, president and founder of Appropriate Communication Tools for Development (ACT Egypt).
At the top of the delegation’s agenda was reviewing progress towards implementing CEDAW in Egypt. The Egyptian government delegation, headed by Dr. Farkhonda Hassan, highlighted the inability of currently used statistical indicators to capture the large disparities among the different groups of women in Egypt, such as rural women, refugee women, women working in agricultural and informal sectors, domestic workers and young women on the street. Dr. Hassan also noted the positive step of establishing the office of the Ombudsperson for Gender Equality in Egypt’s National Council for Women.
The Karama delegation joined the CEDAW committee in commending Egypt on lifting its reservation on Article 9, which will now enable Egyptian women to pass nationality on to children with non-Egyptian fathers. Yet the committee also identified several areas where Egypt is yet to come into full compliance with the treaty. It emphasized the need to better understand violence against women in Egypt, a process that is hampered by the lack of accurate statistics and other types of information on these offenses in the country.
Regarding the office of the Ombudsperson for Gender Equality, Dr. Fatema Khafagy expressed regret that nine years after its establishment, the office does not have the legal power of investigating women’s complaints nor any method to seek remedies for women whose rights were violated.
Regarding violence against women, the Karama delegation echoed the government’s call for better statistical collection on the topic and called for a strengthening of the social supports given in the Egyptian shelter system to victims of violence. Delegates advocated for the provision of better counseling services to victims and perpetrators of violence and advocated for the amendment of Article 17 of the Egyptian penal code that gives the judge the right to decrease jail sentences for those who commit rape or honor killings.
Karama delegates and the CEDAW committee also called on Egypt to lift its reservation on Article 2, in which the government states that it will only mandate gender equality insofar as it complies with Islamic Sharia. The committee also encouraged to drop gender quotas in the workplace and make efforts to enforce CEDAW provisions within the Egyptian court system.
Karama delegates also attended the presentation and discussion of the United Arab Emirates’ CEDAW report, presented by a delegation that included Minister of State, H.E. Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy. The UAE report centered on women’s issues related to the 80% non-Emirati population living in the UAE, particularly non-nationals’ inequality before the law and the vulnerability of domestic and migrant workers to marginalization and sexual abuse.
Attending the CEDAW session also gave Karama delegates the opportunity to network with their colleagues from around the Arab World and informally lobby members of the CEDAW committee who were discussants of the Egypt report.
Karama (meaning “dignity” in Arabic) enacts initiatives supporting women leaders and activists from eleven countries of the Middle East and North Africa building a movement to end violence against women and girls. For more information on Karama, visit www.el-karama.org or contact Zahra Radwen at +202-25272372.