After Egypt revolution, women's taste of equality fades

After Egypt revolution, women's taste of equality fades

(from the UN News website).....Once at the vanguard of the protest movement, women have yet to gain any significant influence in the new Egypt, revealing the complexities of defining gender rights in a nation colored by Islam, inundated by Western media permissiveness and ruled by military men operating in a cloistered realm of gold stars and salutes.

The army council that replaced Mubarak's corrupt regime has been harsh, subjecting female dissidents to "virginity tests" to intimidate them, and in December beating and ripping the clothes off female demonstrators, including one stripped to her blue bra, an image that became an icon for an unfinished rebellion.

Political power has shifted to the hands of Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative Salafis control more than 70% of the seats in the parliament, a prospect that worries women seeking equality on social matters such as education and divorce. Only five women have seats among the assembly's 508 elected and appointed members. In 2010, a year after Mubarak enacted a quota system to expand the female presence, 68 women won parliament seats.

The military later abolished the quota, another sign the feminist agenda was stalled against more powerful and patriarchal designs.

Nawal Saadawi, 80, silver hair in pigtails, has fought for women over a lifetime. One of Egypt's leading writers and its most eloquent feminist, she's been at her desk for years, immortalizing women in her dozens of books about fictitious women and women very real. Her titles can sting with indictment: "She Has No Place in Paradise." Women, she says, have been betrayed in today's Egypt of mullahs and generals.

"We don't hear the voice of women," she says. "We're not allowed to speak. I've written 47 books that paved the way for women, so why am I not allowed to speak?"...
It is disrespectful for a woman's dignity when she has to take to the streets to defend her rights," says Manal Aboul Hassan, head of the women's committee for the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. "Does not she have a husband, a brother or a son to defend her?"

Publicly the Brotherhood espouses equality. However, it doesn't grant women seats on its leadership council, and many of its members oppose the idea of a woman, or a Christian, ever serving as Egypt's president. A new book, "The Memoirs of a Former Sister: My Story With the Muslim Brotherhood," attacks what its author, Intissar Abdel Moneim, calls the subservient role the organization forces on female members.

Abdel Moneim criticizes the teachings of the Brotherhood's founder, Hassan Banna, as relegating women to "catering to their husbands' desires and to reproduction."

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