BY SARAH MIERS, Spark Fellow
As the protests made headline news, we hoped that they would bode well for women involved in the revolution. So far this is not the case. Women are being excluded from an important and exciting moment in shaping Egypt’s future—drafting the country’s new constitution.
The news took me by surprise. Women’s strong participation in Egypt’s protests against the Mubarak government alluded to a certain degree of political equality. Yet just weeks later, nearly 300 women marching in Tahrir Square on International Women’s Day were beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob. This incident highlights the crucial importance of protecting women’s rights in Egypt, and the recent exclusion of women in the drafting a new constitution underlines the magnitude of this issue.
These recent events may hinder the ongoing progress towards improving women’s political rights in the country. Back in 1957 Egypt became the first Arab country to elect a woman to parliament. In 2010, the Mubarak government secured 64 parliament seats for women. With the omission of women’s input in drafting the new constitution and the harassment of marchers supporting women’s rights and equality, I fear that women’s rights might be jeopardized in the post-revolutionary Egypt. Of particular concern is maintaining the 64 seats in parliament. Since this legislation was enacted under President Mubarak, it is unclear whether or not the new constitution will preserve this right.
In a region where women’s rights are restricted, the broader implications of these political events are very important. While I watch the future of Egypt unfold, I hope that women are able to preserve their existing political presence and continue to fight for equal rights.