Egypt: Law allocates 64 parliamentary seats for women

This law allocating seats for women in the People's Assembly has come after more than 25 years of women's numbers decreasing in the parliament.
Women's greatest presence in the parliament was in 1984 when the participation reached to 35 representatives in comparison to 2005, which witnessed only 9 representatives, including four elected and five appointed. Although article No. 40 of the Egyptian constitution emphasizes absolute equality between men and women, the reality of equality is shaped primarily by customs, traditions and direct interests, which is reinforced by the per capita electoral system. This law comes as compensation for women's many years of marginalization by political powers.
The Egyptian Center for Women's Rights (ECWR) believes that the quota system does not distinguish women, but acts as compensation in light of social and intellectual barriers that prevent the equitable participation of women in politics. This new law gives qualified women the opportunity to prove their abilities. In addition, it further changes the attitudes of society towards women's political participation and the need for women in the field of civil work.

ECWR sees that is a good initiative which has been demanded by women rights' organizations since 1995 ECWR hopes that this initiative is not limited to only the parliament, but will also extend to councils and political parties, in order for women's representation to reach a proportion of 30%.

On the other hand, ECWR is concerned about the law's application for only two parliamentary sessions. This fixed limit contradicts the aim of this quota, which is to be a tool for changing the attitudes of society. Two parliamentary sessions is not enough time to change the attitudes of a generation, and thus it should be extended to four parliamentary sessions.

In addition, we hope that the quota system will lead to a change from the current per capita system to a list system, which will provide more opportunities for all marginalized groups to participate and strengthen political parties and political culture.

It is worth mentioning that the quota system has been applied in 77 countries, in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. Women representation has increased significantly in decision-making bodies and concerned bodies. These systems provided an effective mechanism for building-up the competency and capacity of women in the political field, which has proven tangible upon evaluation.

ECWR stresses the need to work in conjunction with all political parties, political powers, and civil society organizations to encourage and support women in the wake of the new quota system. There is a substantial need for increasing society's awareness to accept and support women's political participation.

18 June 2009

Source: The Egyptian Center for Women's Rights