Egyptian women fight for right to top judicial positions

Aleem, Al Monitor, May 7, 2018

As both
the Ministry of Justice and the National Council for Women push for the
appointment of female judges to Egypt’s State Council, the State Council
continues to adamantly reject such appointments.
Abdallah Dalsh. The entrance of the State Council building, Egypt’s highest
administrative court, Cairo, Egypt, May 17, 2016.

Women have gained access to some judicial
in Egypt over the years, but they have yet to breach the
all-powerful State Council. The decadeslong battle pits certain interpretations
of the Egyptian Constitution against the council and centuries of tradition
dictating that a woman’s place is in the home.
National Council for Women and others are continuing their uphill effort,
pointing out that there are no constitutional or religious restrictions that
prevent women from working in a specific field.
note, however, that while the constitution doesn’t specify that women can’t be
judges, there’s also nothing in the document requiring that women be allowed to
; that would take a constitutional amendment. But the
constitution calls for
Egypt to commit to achieving equality between women and men in all rights, grants
women the right to hold public posts and states that appointments to
judicial bodies and entities be made without discrimination.
of Justice Hossam Abdel
said April 23 during a parliament session that he has asked
members of the State Council to work toward appointing female judges, although
the State Council
is an independent judiciary body not under his jurisdiction.
In Egypt,
the State Council encompasses all administrative courts. According to the
constitution, the council is the exclusive authority over administrative
disputes, disciplinary cases and appeals, and challenges to its decisions. It
also is the only body that issues certain legal opinions; reviews and
drafts law-related bills and resolutions; and reviews draft contracts for
the state or any public entity.
Council for Women head Maya Morsi has emphasized that women should be appointed
to judicial bodies, especially considering that the constitution has granted
them that right.
dispute plaguing state institutions over the appointment of women dates back to
1951, when a judicial
refused the appointment of women in the State Council on the
grounds that the nature of the work doesn’t suit women and also because the
decision is left to the council’s discretion.
Also, in
2010, the absolute majority of the State Council’s General Assembly rejected
the appointment of female judges to the council, based on Article 186
of the State Council’s regulations. This article stipulates that no measures
related to the appointment of State Council members shall contradict the views
of the council’s General Assembly.
State Council advisers reject the council’s stance against appointing women.
Said Barghash, the former deputy head of the council, told Al-Monitor, “Keeping
women away from judicial work [should be] rejected altogether, especially
considering that the constitution grants women the right to join such work. The
constitution is more important than any other law that might stipulate
added, “Women can keep up with the nature of judicial work in the State
Council, which is bureaucratic work that does not require physical effort. Such
work is even easier than working as lawyers. This is why there should be no
intransigence when it comes to the appointment of women.”
The State
Council’s own
stipulate that priority for appointments should be given
to Egyptians who enjoy a good reputation and have a law degree.
is also involved in the dispute. On Jan. 8, parliament referred to its
Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee a draft law that stipulates
the need to appoint women across judicial bodies. The most
prominent articles
of this draft law stipulate that judicial bodies
shall appoint women under the same admission terms as male judges, and any law
that stipulates otherwise shall be repealed.
International Council of Jurists has called on parliament to adopt the
draft law
But Gamal
Jebril, a constitutional law professor at Halwan University, told Al-Monitor,
“State Council regulations do not prevent the appointment of female judges, but
the problem lies in the application of these regulations.”
He said
the draft law won’t pass because it’s unconstitutional in that it basically
calls for reverse discrimination.
constitution guarantees equality between women and men without discrimination,”
he added. “Parliament cannot force the State Council or any other judicial body
to appoint women, because these are independent bodies.”
criticized the State Council, however, noting it doesn’t even provide women
with job applications to fill out. “This is deemed discriminatory and
unconstitutional, and the State Council should refrain from so doing.”
One such
example involved Umniyah Gadallah, who has a master of law degree from Ain
Shams University. In 2014, she went to apply for a judicial position at the
State Council and couldn’t obtain a job application to fill out, she told
Al-Monitor recently.
State Council denied me the right to apply for the job, in violation of [its
own] regulations, which do not stipulate the exclusion of women, and in
violation of the constitution, which stipulates the need to achieve equality
between men and women in all rights,” she said.
can perfectly work at the State Council, especially considering that they
already work as judges in other judicial bodies such as the Administrative
Prosecution and the Supreme Constitutional Court, among others,” Gadallah
of women being appointed to the State Council hope the current push underway
will serve as a lever to strengthen their cause, even if the executive and
legislative branches find it difficult to force the State Council to change its