What follows is the response of the Women’s National Council of Egypt (WNCE) representatives of which were in New York participating in the Commission on the Status of Women’s 57th Session to an online statement the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo opposing the CSW draft document.
The statement was closely echoed by Mrs Camilia Hilmy, President of the International Islamic Commission for Woman and Child, a non-governmental organisation in Egypt. Mrs Hilmy’s statement was published on Al Huriya wal Adala, the media outlet of the ruling Freedom and Justice Party, giving it the status of official government opinion.
Women’s National Council of Egypt Statement
The WNCE categorically rejects the statements of the Muslim Brotherhood published by the Freedom and Justice Party as having no basis;
- The final CSW agreed conclusions had not been released when the statement was made. It was still under negotiation by international delegations and UN entities and was not concluded until 16th March 2013. Therefore the opposing statements are anticipatory but do not respond to an agreed document.
- The statements make claims that are exaggerated and untrue. While it reaffirms international actions and commitments, the International Commission on Women cannot impose any decisions about the different laws and customs of sovereign states. As always with international decision-making, the implementation of agreements is at the discretion of Member States.
- We note that the statements were drafted by Mrs Hilmy, who is known to adopt an aggressive ideology towards international conventions related to women including CEDAW, the International Conference on Population and Development (1994) and the Beijing Platform for Action (1995). The statements issued do not say anything new and do not respond to the specific discussions in at CSW57 in 2013. She simply repeats what she has said for years, at every United Nations meeting related to women’s issues.
- The Muslim Brotherhood statement states that signing the CSW57 draft document “would certainly be the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries, eliminating the moral specificity that helps preserve the cohesion of Islamic societies.” This incendiary language justifies false claims that ending violence against women is a violation of Sharia, conflicts with Islamic principles, destroy Islamic morals, and destroys the institution of the family. Statements such as these are not only inaccurate and aggressive but convey a bad image of Islam to the international community and undermine Egypt’s role at the United Nations.
- The statements claim to object specifically to ten points in the CSW57 draft document, namely: inheritance, divorce, guardianship, the marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim, freedom of girls, and the rights of homosexuals or prostitutes. However, none of these points is ever mentioned in the CSW57 draft and the CSW57 Agreed Conclusions do not encompass a single one of these points. The statements issued in Cairo, therefore, are deliberately mendacious and misleading. Their intention is to prevent discussion of the actual contents of the Agreed Conclusions and to distract Egyptian citizens from holding their government to account for obligations agreed at the United Nations, of which Egypt is a full Member State.
- The CSW Agreed Conclusions are the result of on-going negotiations at the United Nations between representatives of Permanent Missions and government delegations. It is difficult to imagine that fifty-four Islamic states, all of which are committed to protecting Islamic religion and culture, feel no sympathy or concern about how to unite in the global struggle to end violence against women and girls. In publishing the uninformed opinions of a single representative of one non-governmental organisation on their official websites, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party are effectively discrediting other delegations from the Muslim world and showing disrespect to the United Nations, which is governed by the principles of the Charter established in 1945.
- It is not in Egypt’s interests as a Member State to endorse such falsifications, to isolate itself and stand in opposition against other states. In the past, Egypt was known as a country that mediated between its citizens and worked to resolve international conflicts. Egypt’s citizens have been ambassadors for the country, including in the international arena, for many years. Just as Egypt will not allow impositions from outside that are unfit to its own culture and customs, it should remain fully aware of and respect the different cultures and customs of other countries.
It seems that this is also happening in Yemen, Libya, and Morocco. What can you share with us?