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A group that advocates for changes to divorce and child custody laws has said its members will stage a protest Monday outside the People's Assembly in objection to a recent decision to reestablish the National Women’s Council.
The group, which is named Egypt’s Men Revolution, has demanded that the government establish an alternative council for family rights and amend personal status laws. Leaders said they were prepared to extend the protest to an open-ended sit-in in case their demands were ignored.
"We demand a council for the family to restore balance to the community and return the cohesion of the family,” said Waleed Zahran, founder of the group.
Zahran said the group is calling for a council separate from the National Women’s Council, which included figures “known for their hostility toward men.” He said the leadership of the former women’s council was “sexist” and the council was “unconstitutional because of its discrimination.”
The council, founded in 2000 under a law issued by the former President Hosni Mubarak, was meant to reinforce the position of women in the country. However, the council has been heavily criticized by both secular and religious figures.
Secular feminists criticized Suzanne Mubarak’s involvement with the council, saying that it falsely portrayed her as an advocate of women’s rights. Some Islamists also say that the council intends to corrupt the traditional values of Muslim women.
In December 2011, a lawsuit was filed with Cairo Administrative Court demanding the dissolution of the council. The plaintiffs said that the body was formed by members of the disbanded National Democratic Party and was used by the party to achieve nefarious objectives.
Members of Egypt’s Men Revolution, Zahran said, were dismayed that the new minister of justice has not amended laws that limit the amount of time that a divorced father can see his young children.
A lawsuit has been filed against Field Marshal Hussein Tantawy, head of the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces, at the Supreme Administrative Court, for resurrecting the National Women’s Council. Judge Abdallah al-Baga, head of the Family Court, said such a move is outside the field marshal’s jurisdiction, as he does not have the powers of a president.
"The National Women’s Council should be dissolved because it contributed directly to corrupting the social life in Egypt, just like the National Democratic Party which corrupted the political life through signing many international conventions that contradict the Islamic Sharia,” Baga said.
Baga asked for the merger of the National Women’s Council and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, which would result in a single entity that could serve families’ needs and that would be independent from the president, he said.
Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm