CIHRS Denounces Legal Discrimination against Women in the Arab World at UN

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United Nations Human Rights Council:  Session 15
Panel on Discrimination Against Women- Oral Intervention
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
20 September, 2010
Delivered by:  Laila Matar

Thank you Mr. President,
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies remains concerned over the systemic discrimination against women throughout the Middle East, both through discriminatory laws and the unwillingness to implement laws designed to protect women’s rights.

In states such as Lebanon, Kuwait, and Syria, female citizens continue to be unable to pass their nationality onto their spouses and children. This not only has the potential to limit access to healthcare and education for their children, as has been recorded in Lebanon and Syria, but also sends the message that women are seen as second-class citizens by the state. In Egypt, in an act of double discrimination, the inability to pass on nationality is specifically enforced for women who have children with Palestinian men.
In Jordan, Syria and Egypt, so-called ’honour crimes,’ including murder, committed by men against women, may be punished with reduced sentences. In Egypt, if a man kills his wife for adultry he may be imprisoned for no more than three years, whilst a woman who kills her husband for the same reason may face a sentence of 15 years. In Jordan, provisions in the penal code are still in place that exempt from punishment men who kill, wound or injure any female relative for adultery.

In Egypt, neither domestic violence nor marital rape is criminalised. While both Jordan and Yemen have anti-domestic violence legislation, women who report cases may themselves be detained until a relative is able to collect them. In Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, despite the existence of anti-domestic violence laws, in practice violence against women is rarely taken seriously by law enforcement.

Whilst some progress has been made to break down barriers in the professional world, there are worrying signs that permanent progress remains elusive. For example, in Egypt, the 2003 Labour Law explicitly excludes female farmers and domestic servants from the protection and application offered by the law. In addition, Egyptian women are restricted from judicial appointment  as judges in civil and administrative courts.
CIHRS calls upon all Arab states to remove their reservations to the CEDAW, bring their domestic legislation in line with the convention’s stipulations, and enforce laws that protect women.

Thank you Mr. President.

This post is also available in: العربية

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