Members of the Constituent Assembly agreed last week to remove a proposed article which provided some constitutional support for gender equality — provided that such equality did not violate the provisions of Islamic Sharia law.
The episode showed the ability of both liberals and ultra-conservative Salafis to stamp their mark on a constitution-writing process dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Secularists had objected to women’s rights being made conditional on Sharia.
This, they argued, would endanger the whole concept of equality, and could be used as a backdoor to strip women of civil and political rights they have already gained, like the right to be nominated for presidential elections or to hold high government positions, as well as the right to work and education.
Salafi forces, meanwhile, believed that openly granting the right of gender equality without restrictions was a Western idea that would endanger the provisions of Sharia, and would encourage secularists to challenge laws permitting polygamy or change Sharia-compliant inheritance laws.
Removing the article was thus seen as a compromise between the two bitterly opposed factions.
But both gender equality and Sharia are still referenced in the current draft of the constitution.
Article 2 stipulates that the principles of Sharia law are the main source of legislation, while Article 30 states that citizens are equal before the law, with no distinction based on gender, origin, language, religion, dogma, opinion, social status, or disability.