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KEY PANEL'S BAN ON WOMEN JUDGES IN EGYPT SEEN AS RETROGRADE

Gulf News - February 27, 2010 Many Egyptians saw that such a decision represents a setback to women's rights in Egypt, as Adel Naguib, 34, lawyer, told Gulf News by Raghda El-Halawany Cairo - Justice in Egypt witnessed a regressive leap last week, when the general assembly "surprisingly" refused to allow appointing women to judicial positions at the key state council, which advises the government. The Council of State's Association voted by sweeping majority (89 per cent) barring women ruling in the council, in a move that was subjected to a torrent of criticism by internal as well as external human rights activists. Many Egyptians saw that such a decision represents a setback to women's rights in Egypt, as Adel Naguib, 34, lawyer, told Gulf News. "With 334 judges in the assembly rejecting the appointment of females to judicial posts in the country and 42 agreeing, I feel that we are back again to square one concerning women's rights." Step backward In her speech at the emergency meeting held by the ruling party's women secretariat to discuss the resolution, the First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, condemned the decision, calling on women to "defend their acquired rights and successes, which had been scored during the past five years". Dr Salwa Bayoumi, Shura Council member, assured that parliamentary deputies rejected the verdict, calling it a great step backward and not consistent with the current achievements of Egyptian women in the past ten years, and with no legal or constitutional justification. "We had some benchmarks in women's rights as in 2003 we had our first-ever female judge when Tahany Al Gebaly was appointed vice-president of the constitutional court, by President Hosni Mubarak. Four years later we had 31 women appointed at supreme judicial council, which has jurisdiction over criminal and civil courts," she said Since its establishment in 1946, the state council has become the only body that has the authority to give rulings on administrative disputes related to the punitive lawsuits whether those related to cancelling administrative decisions or advising public entities on diverse aspects of public law such as administrative contracts, tenders, and ministerial decrees At the official level, Mushira Khatab, Minister of Family and one of the three female Cabinet ministers, expressed concern at the decision, as the state council was expected to adhere to equality between women and men. "The problem is that this decision came at a very crucial time, it is parallel to our delegation displaying Egypt's human rights in Geneva, which indicates sending mixed messages to the world," she said. On the other hand, Adel Farghali, Chancellor and one of the voters, said that the performance of female judges was a failure. Compassionate He said his objection arises from compassion to the women "because they will not be able to bear the pressures of the judicial working conditions". Dr Zeinab Radwan, Member of the National Council for Human Rights, rejected the remarks and told Gulf News that "women in all countries of Europe, Asia and even Africa are now reaching the highest ranks, as we see women are prime ministers, defence minister as in France, I wonder why we still orbit in these closed circles." Concerning the religious point of view, Dr Hamdi Zaqzouq, Minister of Religious Endowment, felt that women had proven their efficiency and even overtaken men in some areas. This decision, he said, was at odds with Constitution, international covenants on human rights and the principle of equality in Islam. "This decision is contradictory to the principles of justice and law, as all citizens have equal public rights and duties without discrimination between them due to race, ethnic origin, language, religion or creed," said Hafez Abu Saeda, secretary general of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights. "Egypt has been very slow in this regard," he said pointing to female attorney generals serving in Syria, Sudan and Tunisia. Noura Hassan, lawyer and women's rights activist, told Gulf News that Egypt was the first Arab country to name female ambassadors, government ministers and MPs, even establishing first Arab Feminist Union in 1923. But now it seems to lag behind many of its Arab counterparts in terms of female judicial participation. "Egypt has a well-established judicial system as it was among the first countries next to France in 1875 to establish a mixed tribunal, but current changes seem to blow away it's essences," she said. Meanwhile, an official source within the council declared that there is a possibility that a special council, a supervisory body that oversees the state council, which is due to meet soon, will technically overturn the decision in the coming few days.





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