CAIRO, Egypt — In 1956 women’s rights in Egypt made remarkable progress when they legally gained the right to vote. Although, when thinking of Egypt, there is the tendency to think of ancient times when rulers and goddesses existed. Such examples include the goddess of motherhood, Hathor, or the powerful Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. Nevertheless, during those ancient times, men and women were essentially equal and there was nearly no hierarchy in terms of gender roles. However, as far as employment, this was not the case. The inequality Egyptian women faced during those times are no different from the inequality issues they face today.
Five Facts About Women’s Rights in Egypt
Egypt relies on gender-based rules. Among many other countries that face disparities, Egypt functions off of gender-based rules because of the traditional society. As a result, women typically do house chores like cooking, cleaning and caring for the children. According to The 2020 Global Gender Gap Index, which ranks countries based on the severity of inequality in the world, Egypt ranks 134 out of 153 countries. This is a fairly low ranking for a nation that is working to improve its gender equality.
Inequality within education systems in Egypt has decreased substantially. However, even highly educated Egyptian women still struggle to find employment due to how expensive childcare is and the likelihood of sexual harassment in and outside the working environment. The Global Economy in 2019 reported that the labor force participation rate for females in Egypt was 21.93%. Meanwhile, for men, the labor force participation rate was 70.86%.
Literacy disparities have diminished recently. Although gender discrimination is still present in Egypt, literacy disparities have diminished over the last two decades. According to The World Bank’s report in 2017, the literacy rate for females was 65.5%, while it was 43.6% in 1996. Within those decades, Egyptian women’s literacy rate increased by nearly 22% and if it continues to elevate, it will promote their economic growth in society.
Child marriage is illegal. In Egypt, legal adulthood starts at 18. Women’s rights in Egypt made significant progress in 2001 when child marriage became illegal, giving young girls a chance at a brighter future. Additionally, they now have a more equal opportunity in life at a younger age. As a result of enacting this law, teenage pregnancy rates also decreased.
Female Genital Mutilation is still practiced in Egypt. FGM, also known as circumcision, is frowned upon but still practiced in Egypt. According to the 2014 Demographic and Health Survey, 92% of women between ages 15-49 had undergone circumcision. Most of these women had been married already, however, this is an alarmingly high rate of female circumcision.
Although women’s rights in Egypt continue to face hardships, the nongovernmental organization Egyptian Society of Women’s Health (ESWH) is working hard at helping women. Through their promotion and advocacy for women’s health, they are making a difference in women’s rights in Egypt. Though women still face great adversities, access to health benefits is still a significant stride in the right direction.
– Montana Moore