By Joseph Mayton
"CAIRO: There are already a few tanks stationed near the presidential palace
in Cairo as protesters continue to demonstrate against President Mohamed Morsi
over the draft constitution that is to go to referendum on December 15.
Now, as Morsi orders the military onto the streets to “protect state
institutions” ahead of the vote, activists and average citizens are fearful it
could mean a return to military rule. And they are not happy......
The constitution, drafted by predominantly conservative Islamists, is the
issue at hand in Egypt. Critics say that even though Morsi was democratically
elected, he does not represent the majority and cannot implement his will
through the constitution.
They argue that the drafting process was not representative of the country,
especially after numerous groups, including women’s rights organizations, Coptic
Christians and liberal leaders withdrew after saying the Islamists would not
compromise on any issue.
Adding fuel to the protest movement now gripping the country is the
first-round of election votes, which saw Morsi garner only 25 percent of the
electorate. Anti-Morsi critics say this is proof that he does not have a mandate
to rule with an iron fist and force down the throats a constitution that
eliminates women’s rights, equality and freedom of religion.....
At the heart of the matter for more than half of Egypt’s 90 million
population, are women’s rights and how they are represented, or not represented,
in the draft constitution.
The Egyptian Association for the Assistance of Juveniles and Human Rights
added that Article 70 also does not prohibit child trafficking and sexual
The NGO decried the assembly’s failure to specify the age of children in the
charter, particularly when Egypt was one of the first signatories of the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which clearly declares
anyone below the age of 18 as a minor.
The minimum age for marriage set by the Personal Status Code in 2008 was 18,
which is not the case under the new constitution.
According to Amnesty International, Egypt’s draft constitution does not
shield minors from early marriage and permits child labor.
Ultra-conservative Salafists – Islamic puritans – have been calling for the
marriage age to be reduced, and under the new constitution, it could very well
see the gross exploitation of the country’s young girls.
“It is permissible for the girl at the age of 9 or 10 to marry,” Yassir
Barhami said in discussing a woman’s sexual reproduction and his interpretation
of Islam during a September interview.
The Salafist preacher claimed that under Islam when a girl begins to ovulate
she is ready for marriage.
He added during a television debate on Dream TV that “marriage of a girl
would not be a supplement for education,” but added that it “was better” to
marry a girl young “than falling into sin with customary marriage.”
He is a member of the constituent assembly that was tasked with drafting the
The cleric cited the Qur’an in arguing that any girl who is menstruating
should be married and begin having children.
At the same time of advocating the marriage age be dropped to 14-years-old,
he argued that the Salafist Constituent Assembly is also pushing for a law that
denies “slavery against women” in the new constitution.
And he and the Islamists seem to have won.
Manal al-Taibi, a now resigned member of the Constituent Assembly, said that
this call is the promotion of child marriage and is akin to rape.
She has resigned her position on the assembly in protest to the overuse of
Sharia law, or Islamic law, permeating the drafting process.
On top of the marriage issue, women’s rights as a whole have been removed,
and the clause on equality has been left out......."