European & International News

Egypt’s new male-dominated government betrays promises for gender balance

[Brussels, 09 August 2012] President Morsi’s failure to achieve gender equality in his government will hamper women’s rights in Egypt in the aftermath of the revolution.

When the revolution in Egypt last year toppled Mubarak’s government, Egyptian women believed that their joint fight with men would pave the way for gender equality in their country. Since then, however, the new President, Mr. Morsi, has failed to keep his promises. His new cabinet, announced beginning of August, is a striking example of Egypt’s laborious transition towards democracy.

Despite promises for a gender-balanced cabinet, two women only were appointed to the new government: Insurance and Social Affairs Minister Nagwa Khalil and Scientific Research Minister Nadia Zakhary, both holdovers from the precedent military-appointed cabinet. After months of fighting alongside with men, Egyptian women, who make up more than half of the population, remain excluded from decision-making. President Morsi did not even consult with female politicians or intellectuals regarding the make-up of his cabinet.

Key portfolios such as defense and foreign affairs remain in the hands of the military. Four to five ministers are believed to be directly affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s former political party, which is seen as a serious threat to women’s rights. The Christian community of Egypt – known as the Copts – also expressed concerns about this new government which comprises only one Christian Minister: Nadia Zakhary. President Morsi defended his cabinet by arguing that all his ministers belong to the same Egyptian community. Yet the country is far from being united.

Indeed, women are still facing appalling violence and discrimination. In the months following the revolution that overturned Mubarak’s government, female protestors were victims of sexual assault and harassment. Some of them were brutally arrested and submitted to humiliating “virginity tests”. While the uprising had seemed to put women on an equal footing with men, the aftermath of the revolution has opened the way to a series of attacks against their most basic rights. Morsi’s male-dominated cabinet must now ensure that women’s rights are enshrined in the law and promoted, in line with the ideals that propelled the revolution last year.

Credit: European Pressphoto Agency / Ahmed Fouad.

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