By Omneya Talal
The year 2015 witnessed a number achievements for women, the highlight of which was the swearing-in of new female judges and the unprecedented presence of female parliamentarians in the upcoming parliament with 73 elected members.
In February, the Egyptian judiciary appointed the first female presiding judges after the Supreme Judicial Council approved the appointment of a batch of administrative prosecution members, in addition to State Litigation Authority members, as presiding judges in the Criminal Courts, Courts of First Instance and the Cassation Court.
Head of the Supreme Judicial Council Judge Hossam Abdel Raheem stated that female judges would be selected from different judicial bodies and would undergo oral and written exams. The decision excludes appointment in the General Prosecution.
Mervat Talawy, the head of the National Council for Women, considered the decision a positive step towards the application of article 11 of the current Egyptian constitution, thus promoting the rule of law and creating an example for other state institutions to follow suit.
Article 11 of the constitution, which was approved in a referendum in January 2014, states that the state guarantees women’s “appointment in judicial bodies and authorities without discrimination.”
Women in Parliament
Amid fierce competition, women managed to secure a total of 73 seats in the recent parliamentary elections, with 56 candidates garnering seats through the quota system and 17 winning individual seats.
This is considered a first for the Egyptian parliament since it was first established. The number of women in parliament is further expected to rise after the presidential appointment of 28 members takes place.
Akram Alfy, political analyst at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, believes that the final election results represent a shift in the mindset of Egyptian society towards electing women in parliament.
“For the first time, a Christian woman wins an individual seat, and another woman leads an electoral list, and that is Judge Tahany el-Gebaly,” said Alfy.
Women and Political Parties
In the arena of Egyptian political parties, 19 women won in the elections of the Higher Authority of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP), claiming 44 percent of the seats, which is unprecedented within Egyptian political parties.
However, women’s overall share in leadership positions in political parties, whether by election or appointment, does not exceed one-third.
An elected member in the ESDP’s Higher Authority, Hana Abo el-Ghar, saw the victory as being due to the presence of high calibers of women in the party. ESDP female politicians managed to exceed the quota that is set at 30 percent.
The establishment of two hospitals specialized for women, Baheya hospital and Almadina Almonawara, in 2015, is considered among the most important health achievements of the year.
Established in May, Baheya is the first hospital specialized in the treatment of breast cancer free of charge. The hospital aims to raise awareness of the importance of early detection and prevention of cancer to ensure the highest cure rates.
According to the Egyptian National Cancer Institute, breast cancer comprises 19.29% of the recorded cancer cases.
The other hospital, Almadina Almonawara, was established two months later as the first Egyptian public hospital specialized in women’s medicine in Alexandria.
Women in Drama Series
Prominent actresses managed to secure the lead in half of the Ramadan series this year, with roles not focusing on the abuse of women as commodities or objects.
The Egyptian drama production surges ahead of the Islamic month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast daily from dawn to dusk. Numerous Egyptian soap operas are aired on Egyptian and Arab TV channels every Ramadan.
Out of 29 series of Egyptian production, 14 series featured female leads.
Media critic Ramy el-Metwaly said that women’s participation in other works also proved to be effective, stressing that actresses acquired bigger and more influential roles in drama series this year.
This article was translated into English by Nourhan Fahmy.