The ICJ today called on the Egyptian Parliament to adopt a Draft Law on the appointment of women to the judiciary and to eliminate longstanding discrimination against their appointment as judges.
The Draft Law was introduced by member of the Parliament (MP) Nadia Henry this month and is supported by another 60 MPs.
The Speaker of Parliament has referred it to the legislative committee for review.
“Ensuring women’s full and equal participation in Egypt’s judiciary is necessary for a fair legal system reflective of the community it serves,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ MENA Director.
“It’s also necessary to end decades of discriminatory practices that have meant only a handful of women judges have ever been appointed despite explicit guarantees of equality in the Constitution,” he added.
Article 11 of the Constitution requires the State to ensure the “achievement of equality between women and men in all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights,” including the right of “holding public and senior management offices in the state and their appointment in judicial bodies and authorities without discrimination”.
Women were first appointed to judicial office in 2007. Between 2007 and 2017 there were less than 67 female judges across Egypt, for a population of more than 100 million.
This significant under-representation of women is entrenched in a widespread discriminatory view, including within the judiciary itself, that working as a judge in court was an inappropriate profession for women.
“The Draft Law is significant first step towards challenging these discriminatory views and harmful practices. The Authorities must not only adopt it, they must also adopt other urgent, practical and structural measures to fully guarantee the rights of women to have equal access to judicial office and ensure their equal representation in the judiciary,” Benarbia added.
The first article of the draft law places an obligation on all judicial bodies to appoint women to judicial offices and ensure that the conditions of their appointment are consistent with those that are applicable to men.
In its second article, the draft law nullifies any law that infringes on the obligation set forth in Article 1. Article 3 of the draft law invalidates any procedures in relation to the appointment of judges if such procedures do not comply with the Article 1 of the draft law.
Article 10 of the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary provide that, “In the selection of judges, there shall be no discrimination against a person on the grounds of race, colour, sex, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or status…”.
The Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, key human rights treaties to which Egypt has been party since the early 1980s, also explicitly prohibit discrimination against women, including in relation to access to public office such as judicial appointments.
Saïd Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41.22.979.3817, e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org