The Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi is not a man of political empty promises. He hardly talked a talk without walking the necessary walk to make it happen in real life.
That is particularly true when it comes to the issue of empowering women and Coptic Christian citizens, who had been denied their basic rights for too long.
On June 2nd, President El-Sisi held a rare but important meeting with the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). During the meeting, a number of unprecedented decrees were issued.
That includes building a“Justice City”in the New Administrative Capital, which is crucial for improving the judicial infrastructure and make it easier for citizens to visit courts and other judiciary-related services.
In addition, the President and the judges agreed to conduct several reforms on the process of hiring and assigning tasks to judges, in a way that guarantees transparency and equal opportunity to interested judicial candidates from all backgrounds.
It is important to mention that the Egyptian judiciary enjoys a state of autonomy that helped the judicial system to operate, independently, with utmost power and control, even during hard times of corruption and political transitions that hit the executive authority of the state in the past decades.
Nevertheless, the most important decision announced in the President’s meeting with the SJC is, finally, setting October 1st as the date for women judges to officially start working at the State Council and Public Prosecution bureaus.
This decision is a follow up to a previous directive by El-Sisi’s to the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Council for Judiciary, and the State Council to take appropriate measures to allow women judges access to job vacancies at the Public Prosecution Authority and the State Council.
El-Sisi’s revolutionary directive on that complicated issue was taken at the International Women’s Day, on March 8th, as a Presidential gift to women.
El-Sisi’s predecessors had chosen to keep the issue frozen on shelves for many years, as they hardly wanted to challenge the unfair societal and religious prejudices that had blocked women’s access to elite positions in the state, for so long.
In 2007, within the many positive reforms conducted, in favor of women, by the then first lady Suzanne Mubarak; Egyptian women were granted the constitutional right to act as sitting judges, for the first time in history.
Since then, women judges had been limited to jobs at certain court districts and certain legal cases, which were mostly linked to the Personal Status Law and the Family Court.
Only after President El-Sisi came in power, with an agenda that supports the role of women in public life, women judges started to see an improvement in the tasks assigned to them.
The Egyptian constitution, and related laws and regulations, guarantee women the right to seek and compete for public jobs, including positions in the judiciary.
Article 11 of the current constitution stipulates: “Women are guaranteed the right to assume public and higher administrative positions in the state, and to be appointed at judicial authorities and bureaus, without discrimination.”
Article 9 of the constitution states: “The state is committed to providing equal opportunities for all citizens, without discrimination.”
Also, Article 14 of the constitution stipulates: “Seeking public jobs is a right guaranteed to all citizens on the basis of competence, without favoritism or intermediation.”
Today, there are 66 women judges in the common court system, 1980 women judges in the Administrative Prosecution Authority, and more than 670 women judges in the State Lawsuits Authority.
Also, there are a few women judges, who previously acted as Commissioners at the Supreme Constitutional Court. However, all the judicial jobs at the most critical bureau of the State Council have always been restricted to men.
For no clear or logical reasons, the State Council used to deny the many unyielding appeals by the women judges, the National Council for Women, and the Parliament, to activate the constitutional stipulations in that regard.
Only today, thanks to President El-Sisi’s courage to challenge barren social norms to empower women in high-profile state positions, women judges will be able to compete against their male counterparts for job opportunities at the State Council.
This important push by president El-Sisi is only one move in the long list of the positive decisions he has been making to empower women, since he took office in 2014.
Currently, women are occupying 25 per cent of seats in the Egyptian Parliament, and are for the first time leading 8 ministries under the current government. Indeed, El-Sisi’s era is the golden era for Egyptian women.