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قاعدة بيانات الجنسين والحقوق في الأراضي التابعة لمنظمة الأغذية والزراعة

Egypt

Rights entrenched in the Constitution

Constitution, adopted in 1971 through a public referendum and amended in 1980, 2005 and 2007 (15).



- Art. 2, as of the 1980 amendment, provides that “Islam is the religion of the state. Principles of Islamic law are the principal source of legislation.”



- Art. 8 states that “The State shall guarantee equality of opportunity to all citizens.”
- According to Art. 40, “All citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination due to sex, ethnic origin, language, religion or creed”. (15)
Articles 8 and 40 guarantee the principles of equality and non-discrimination for all citizens.
While the Constitution guarantees equality and freedom of belief, this must be viewed in light of the 1980 amendment to Article 2, identifying the Shari’a as the principal source of law (4).



- According to Art. 10, “The State shall guarantee the protection of motherhood and childhood, take care of children and youth and provide suitable conditions for the development of their talents.” (4)



- Art. 11 states that “The State shall guarantee the proper coordination between the duties of woman towards the family and her work in the society, considering her equal with man in the fields of political, social, cultural and economic life without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence.” (4)



- Art. 29 states that it “shall be under the supervision of the people and the protection of the State. There are three kinds: public ownership, cooperative ownership and private ownership.”
- According to Art. 32, “Private ownership shall be represented by the unexploiting capital. The law organises the performance of its social function in the service of national economy within the framework of the development plan without deviation or exploitation. It may not be in conflict, in the ways of its use, with the general welfare of the people.”
- Art. 33 provides that “Private ownership shall be safeguarded and may not be put under sequestration except in the cases specified in the law and under a court judgment. It may not be expropriated save for the public benefit and against a fair compensation in accordance with the law. The right of inheritance to it is guaranteed.”
- According to Art. 37, “The law shall determine the maximum limit of agricultural ownership and shall guarantee protection for peasants and agricultural workers against exploitation.” (15)

Women's property and use rights in personal laws

1948, Egyptian Civil Code (ECC):
- Is the main source of legal rules. Much of the ECC is based upon the French Civil Code and, to a lesser extent, upon various other European codes and upon Islamic law, especially in the context of personal status (16).



Personal Status Laws 25/1920; 25/1929; 77/1943; 260/1960, 100/1985, amended on 27 January 2000:
- The personal status of women in Egypt is derived from Islamic law, which dictates the rules of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and employment. This legal structure is distinct from the rest of the Egyptian legal system, which is based on French civil law.



2000, Personal Law No. 1:
- Deals with the procedures of the court system related to litigation in matters of personal status law.
- It has been enacted to speed up the litigation procedure in this area with the intent of ensuring that: i) divorced women receive their entitlements; ii) that wives are protected against violence on the part of their husbands; iii) that relief is provided to women in distress by requiring the Nasser Bank to pay the maintenance that has been awarded to them, eventually by getting the necessary resources through a raise in the level of income taxes (17).



Marriage:
- Muslim women have the right to choose their husband but cannot marry non-Muslim men. Non-Muslim women who marry Muslim men are subject to the Shari’a, but are not automatically entitled to all the privileges accorded by that law, such as inheritance rights. Women have to be at least 16 years old to marry, and men 18.
Polygamy is legal, with the sole requirement that the husband must notify his existing wives of his intention to marry again and must notify his wife-to-be of the existence of his other wives. Furthermore, women do not have the right to travel abroad without their husband’s consent. Female members of the Coptic Orthodox Church who marry Muslim men are excommunicated. Christians of other denominations who wish to marry a Coptic Christian must first convert to Coptic Christianity (4).



Divorce:
- The Personal Status Laws give men the right to divorce without their wife’s consent. However, if the divorce is obtained without cause or the wife’s consent, she is entitled to compensation of at least two years’ maintenance. Women have to go through court to obtain a divorce from their husband (4).
Coptic Christianity does not permit divorce.
- Divorced women have no stake in marital assets, and retain no ownership interest in the marital home or any other property upon divorce. The marital home is viewed as the exclusive property of the husband both in marriage and divorce (4).
- New child-custody laws were enacted in 2005, permitting a divorced mother to have custody of her children until they are 15 years old. A judge can extend this to age 21 or until a daughter marries, if this is deemed in the child’s best interest. At the end of this custody period, the divorced mother is no longer eligible to receive alimony, accommodation or other maintenance. She must leave the house provided by her husband, as soon as the custody period ends (4).
Civil capacity
- In accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code and related laws, all Egyptians, male and female alike, enjoy civil rights in conformity with the legally established provisions relating to capacity. There is no discrimination and there are no restrictions that apply to women and not to men (17).



Labour Code:
- Law No. 137 of 1981 and Law No. 97 of 1959, Art. 130, concerning the Labour Code stipulate that all its provisions apply to working women, with no distinction as to job.
- The law prohibits the employment of women in jobs that could damage their health or morals or in any other job to be specified by the relevant ministries. The Law requires any employer of more than 100 women to set up or share the cost of providing a nursery, and in article 174 it provides penalties for any infringement of the provisions regarding the employment of women (17).



Laws of litigation:
- The right to litigate is guaranteed to both men and women on an equal basis without differentiation, discrimination or preferential treatment. Women have the right of recourse to the law in all its forms and at all levels, the right to act as a witness in court and the right to benefit from the relevant court and legal assistance systems (17).



Commercial competence:
- The age of majority for both civil and commercial purposes, as provided for by Art. 44 of the Civil Code and Art. 4 of the Commercial Code, is 21 years for both men and women. This also applies to a woman’s competence in this respect and to each spouse’s individual property rights. The financial responsibilities of each remain separate. Egyptian law requires a foreign spouse who engages in trade to declare the financial arrangements of his or her marriage (17).



Qur’an and women’s property rights: 
- A Muslim woman possesses independent legal, economic and spiritual identity, and independence. The Qur’an notes that women “shall be legally entitled to their share”, as provided by the Qur’an 4:7, and that “to men is allotted what they earn, and to women what they earn”, as of Qur’an 4:32. Only if women choose to transfer their property can men regard it as lawfully theirs according to Qu’ran 4:4 (19).



1937, Law No. 58 of the Penal Code:
- Article 274 imposes harsher penalties for women committing adultery. A wife is penalized for two years, whereas a husband is penalized for no more than six months.
- Marital rape is not illegal and the Penal Code does not specifically prohibit domestic violence.
- Article 60 of the Penal Code, stipulates that “punishment outlined by the Penal Law does not apply to anyone who committed an action out of good intentions sanctioned by Islamic Shari’a” (4).

Inheritance legal mechanisms

- Inheritance in Egypt is regulated by the rules set forth in the Qu’ran and the Sunnah, the body of traditional socio-legal custom and practice to which the Muslim community adheres (4).



Art. 875 of Civil Code:
- States that: “The establishment of the heirs or their hereditary shares and of the devolution of the property of the estate on them is governed by Mohammedan Law and by the laws with regard to inheritance and estates”.



Personal Status Laws, Law no. 77/1943:
- Regulates inheritance according to set shares. The 1946 Egyptian Law of Bequest provides for “obligatory inheritance for descendants of predeceased sons - how low so ever - and daughters.” The share of such heirs may not exceed one third of the estate. Significantly, regardless of familial relationship, non-Muslims cannot inherit from Muslims. This restriction applies, for example, to Christian widows of Muslim men (4).



- In Islamic inheritance law, the distribution of estates after death is governed by the Qur’an, primarily verses 11, 12 and 176 of Surah Al-Nisaa (4).



- The formal Shar’ia inheritance rules have several distinctive features. First, there are predetermined percentage shares for pre-selected beneficiaries while at the same time allowing some flexibility through bequests and legitimate estate planning. Second, a Muslim’s ability to bequeath is restricted to only one-third of an individual's estate under certain rules with the remaining two-thirds devolving according to the compulsory inheritance rules. Third, the scheme of mandatory fixed shares is remarkably inclusive and provides access to property to a range of family members. Finally, the inheritance rights cannot be generally taken away. Rather than a set of abstract rules, Islamic inheritance rules are intended to facilitate distinctive Islamic conceptions of property, family, community, empowerment and justice.
- Female relatives and spouses are accorded shares, but half that of a male in a similar position and male relatives are more likely to inherit and to enjoy a greater share of the estate. This difference in treatment between men and women is usually explained by reference to the fact that it is also a feature of Islamic law that a wife is entitled to maintenance from her husband, in terms of shelter, clothing, food and medical care (20).

Land Legislation

1992, Tenancy Act No. 96:
- Revoked Agrarian Reform Law No. 178 of 1952 that had given tenants security of tenure and legalized the right to inherit tenancy agreements.
- The law was fully implemented in 1997 after a five-year transition period. Contracts during the transition were intended to remain valid so rights to land could still be inherited but the rent after 1992 was increased from seven to at least 22 times the land tax.  The land tax is revised every 10 years and is based on the fertility and location of the land.
As much as 15 per cent of Egypt’s agricultural land is tenanted, and tenants may have access to their own family land as well as renting in land. This means the relationships of tenancy are complicated and vary from household to household.
No gender-related provisions are included in the law (12).



- The Act may have laid the basis for stimulating and improving the land market, but significant progress in market development remains unlikely while landowners often fail to register title to their land (21).



1952 Land Reform:
- The land reforms in 1952 and 1961 redistributed about one seventh of the country’s cultivable land from large landowners, pashas, to middle peasants and landless by means of: Legislative Decree No. 178 of 1952, Law 127 of 1961 and Law 50 of 1969 (13).
The reforms gave the state the authority to seize an individual’s privately held land that exceeded 200 feddan, a ceiling reduced to 100 feddan in 1961; however, families could still hold up to 300 feddan, and the amount a landlord could rent out was limited to 50 feddan. Exemptions were allowed where families had more than two children, where an additional 100 feddan could be retained. There were also exemptions to endowed land held by religious authorities, desert land or land owned by industrial or scientific organizations. Landowners received compensation, except the royal family who lost 170 000 feddan.
- Seized land was distributed to agricultural labourers and tenant farmers with holdings of less than 5 feddan. The recipients on average received 2.4 feddan and paid for the land in instalments over a 40-year period. There were almost 2 million beneficiaries of the reforms. Smallholders also benefited from an increase in land sales, as landowners feared expropriation or sequestration of their estates.

Policies/Institutional mechanisms enforcing or preventing women’s land rights

Women’s Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs:
- Established in 1977. It develops policies and programmes for the advancement of women, monitors reports of women’s activities in the local news, gathers information on issues relating to women and their advancement in all fields, promotes positive and essential changes in prevailing attitudes and engages in international cooperation in that regard, and studies the recommendations of international and regional conferences on women. The Department has also established a documentation centre for women’s issues (17).
- A Coordination Unit for women’s agricultural activities was set up by Ministry of Agriculture. Its activities include the dissemination of agricultural information, the improvement of livestock, the provision of loans and the promotion of child-nutrition programmes with a view to raising health standards in rural communities (17).
National Committee for Women:
- Established in 1978 as a national planning and coordination mechanism. It brought together representatives of all relevant ministries, agencies and non-governmental women’s organizations and was responsible for monitoring the implementation of national programmes and plans for the advancement of women, proposing measures to promote the participation of women in all aspects of life and elaborating and following up the necessary programmes. Following a February 1994 decision of the Prime Minister, the Council was reorganized in order to consolidate and expand its work and affirm its national role (17).



National Council for Women:
- Established pursuant to Republican Decree No. 90 of 2000, issued on 8 February 2000, took the place of the National Women’s Committee.
The Council is an independent national body responsible for promoting the advancement of women and designing the necessary policies and programmes. It is also responsible for developing appropriate solutions to the obstacles that women continue to face, particularly in rural areas (17).
- The Third National Conference of Egyptian Women, entitled “Advancement of Rural Women”, was held in 1998, and discussed the promotion of literacy, education, health, education about reproductive health, the advancement of rural women, the development of micro-enterprises and the promotion of rural women’s awareness of their political, social and legal rights. All the agencies concerned with women, particularly the National Council for Women, are engaged in studying the Conference’s recommendations (17).
- “The Strategy of Agricultural Development until the Year 2017”, issued in May 2003, has among its main objectives the better involvement of rural women in the development process (3).
- Family courts have been instituted under the provisions of  Law No. 10/2004 to provide a one-stop shop for family disputes, facilitate settlement of personal status cases and avoid normal delays in the Egyptian legal system. 
These specialized courts, located in New Cairo, with other jurisdictions throughout the country being served by summary, juz`i, courts, also provide counselling and other services to families (18).
- Law No. 84 of 2002, known as “the NGO law”, requires all non governmental organizations (NGOs) to register with the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs. Many Egyptian NGOs view this requirement as a curtailment of their expression and association rights as well as a transparent attempt by the government to approve some NGOs and deem others illegal (18).



The Ombudsman’s Office for Gender Equality:
- Was established in 2001 under the auspices of the National Council for Women, to provide women over the age of 18 with an alternative option through which to address situations of gender discrimination when traditional and formal channels have been unsuccessful. It receives, processed and addressed the complaints of women in a systematic manner, dealing with a multitude of complaints brought forward by women from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Based in the Council’s headquarters in Cairo, the Ombudsman Office opened a sub-office in Aswan Governorate in 2003 to serve the Aswani women.
The Ombudsman Office also supports and engages with organizations and institutions that share its vision and complement its activities. It also possesses the authority to seek amendments of laws that discriminate against women, and to work with competent authorities to remove obstacles that block the application of laws and judgments (22).

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