In an Al-Arabiya TV interview, broadcast on December 4, 2013, Egyptian women's rights activist Nawal Saadawi criticized the new constitution, scheduled to be put to a referendum on January 14-15, 2014, saying that it did not give women "just representation" in parliament and did not protect women's rights within the family.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
Nawal Saadawi: The committee drafting the constitution should have represented the revolution. However, the revolution was not present in this committee. Consequently, the constitution does not represent the revolution. Let's move on to Article 11...
Interviewer: Which talks about women...
Nawal Saadawi: It talks about "appropriate representation" [of women in parliament]. What does "appropriate" mean"? It's a vague term. To women?! Women constitute 50% of the population... There is a difference between "appropriate" and "just."
Nawal Saadawi: It should have read: "a just representation of women in keeping with their percentage in society." If women constitute half of the population, they should have half...
Interviewer: Half the seats in parliament?
Nawal Saadawi: Of course. That's how it should be.
When there are double standards and injustice within the family, doesn't it spread to society as a whole? Of course it does. When the family is governed by a religious law, rather than a civil law, whereas the law of the state is said to be "civil" – isn't this a contradiction?
The most important thing is that in the Personal Status Law the duties of men and women should be equal. There must be equal duties within the family.
A man can simply divorce his wife and marry a young girl. Marrying girls who are minors should have been prohibited.
Interviewer: They did this. Marrying girls who are minors is prohibited...
Nawal Saadawi: Child marriage should have been prohibited. Salafi ideology has invaded Egyptian society. Child marriage and the assault of girls has become routine. A 90-year-old man may marry a 15-year-old girl. This should have been prevented by the constitution.
A woman may even become a minister, but all her rights equal zero when she gets home. There is a distinction between private life and public life. If you grant women their rights and duties in public life, yet this is not reflected injustice at home, within the family, then you have done nothing.