The Egyptian Parliament is considering a discussion of a suggested draft bill by the National Council for Women that puts punitive sanctions, reaching one year imprisonment, for fathers, brothers and husbands who are proven guilty of physically or verbally assaulting women in their family.
MP Heba Hagras, a member of the parliamentary solidarity committee, told Egypt Independent that Egyptian women face one of the worst phenomena of verbal and physical violence, within and outside the family, pointing to the urgent need to activate constitutional text to criminalize violence against women by issuing a draft that includes deterrent sanctions.
“The National Council has been preparing a draft law in this regard, and it will be greatly supported by members of parliament to pass it,” Hagras said.
“Unfortunately, the problem is also cultural, our society is grown to believe that a father assaulting his daughter is a normal situation, although it causes unusual psychological harm to the girl, ” she said, pointing out that the National Council has adequate studies on violence against women so that the bill is not issued on the basis of merely “individual cases.”
Hagras added domestic violence in Egypt is a prevalent phenomenon that requires an “urgent and clear,” legislative text.
The draft law defines domestic violence as “any act or gender-based behavior that results in psychological or physical harm or suffering to women or offends her dignity, including threats of such acts, coercion, sexual abuse, harassment, or deprivation of inheritance.”
Hagras added that the new proposed legalization comes in accordance with article 11 of the Egypt’s constitution, which stipulates that “the State is obliged to protect women against all forms of violence.”
Around 46 percent of married women aged 18 to 64 years in Egypt have experienced some form of spousal violence, whether physical, emotional or sexual, according to the same survey, which was conducted by Egypt’s official statistic body the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), the National Council of Women (NCW) and the United Nations Fund for Population Agency (UNFPA)
One out of four married women has been subjected to physical violence at one point in their lives by their current or former husband, according to 2014 statistics from the Demographic and Health Survey.
Gender-based domestic violence has long been normalised for many in Egypt, though recently the issue has come under the spotlight amid calls on social media for a law criminalising such violence.
Article 11 of the Egyptian constitution stipulates that “the state shall be committed to protecting women against all forms of violence and shall guarantee that women are empowered to reconcile their family responsibilities with their work commitments.”
However, domestic violence against women specifically is not criminalised under Egyptian law, though assaults leading to severe injury can be treated as a felony.
Articles 60 and 17 of the penal code are commonly used to allow abusers to get away with their crimes, Hagras explained.
Article 60 stipulates that “the provisions of the penal code shall not apply to any deed committed in good faith, pursuant to a right determined by virtue of Sharia Law.”
So if a man hits his daughter or his wife within “good faith” of disciplining her, he can be exonerated in accordance with this text.
Article 7 states that in felony counts, if the conditions of the crime for which public prosecution is initiated permit a show of clemency on the part of the judge, the penalty may be reduced.
In May 2015, Egypt launched a nationwide project to combat violence against women to be implemented from 2015 to 2020.
Arab Countries such as Morocco and Jordan have already criminalized domestic violence and more countries in the region are moving now to do likewise.