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Egypt's Domestic Violence Challenge

Unfortunately, Egypt is one of the countries where domestic violence, targeting women and children, is widely tolerated. That is despite the government efforts and presidential-led initiatives to fight against all forms of violence against women, and despite the constitutional principles and civil laws that criminalize physical assault and prohibit torture, especially among the members of the same family.

However, the extremist religious rhetoric and barren social traditions, which are justifying for a man to use violence and physical harm against the female members of his family, are still predominant. Out of these unfair justifications, female children are being subject, by their parents, to the horrible practice of Female Genital Mutilation/cutting (FGM) and wives are brutally beaten, and sometimes tortured, by their husbands, without being able to defend themselves or complain about it to their own families or even the government.

In the handful number of cases where women dared to file legal complaints at a police station or a court against a husband who practiced domestic violence against them, the women were faced with social shaming as their neighbors and families blamed them for taking legal action against the oppressive husband. Eventually, most women had to withdraw the legal claims to regain social acceptance and save their children from being shamed for having a father with a prison record.

According to the UN Women’s Global Data Base on Violence against Women, at least 26% of Egyptian women were exposed to physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partners. In a governmental study, published in 2017, by Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, at least 42% of Egyptian women are being assaulted by their husbands, especially in families where women are economically dependent on men, due to social customs that prevent families from sending their girls to schools or allowing them to work. The tragedy is not limited to poor or rural families but is also expanding to the middle class.

In the past decade, it has been common among middle-class families to force their daughters to leave their work once they get married. In some cases, the groom (future husband) makes it a condition to complete the marriage, under the claim that he wants his future wife to be fully dedicated to taking care of household stuff, such as cooking, cleaning, and raising the children, while he goes out to earn the bread and butter. Eventually, the woman finds herself economically dependent on her husband and thus accepts and tolerates his physical assault on her.

Nevertheless, the most horrible statistics related to domestic violence and violence against women in Egypt are about the practice of the crime of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in 2015, shows that 87% of Egyptian women between 15 to 49 years old were subject to FGM. In 2019, the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics declared that at least 90% of adult Egyptian women had been subjected to FGM surgery in their childhood. According to a public health survey, published in 2014, by the Egyptian Ministry of Health; 92% of Egyptian women between 17 to 49 years old had been subject to FGM in their childhood.

This month marks the anniversary of the United Nations’ International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Human rights activists from all over the world are calling for the end of these awful practices. Meanwhile, the religious and social debates are still open in Egypt around the legitimacy of practicing the crime of FGM on minor helpless girls or the right of the husband to physically assault his wife, to show off his superiority. Domestic violence is a plague that requires more than the force of law to get it eradicated.

Also, read on Sada Elbalad


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