Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend announced on Sunday the creation of special courts for cases involving violence against women, in order to ensure they are processed quickly.
Zend made the announcement during a conference organized by the Arab Women Foundation in collaboration with the Arab League, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and UN Women, under the title “Arab Women in the Development Agenda 2015-2020.”
Amal Fahmy, executive director of the Blogging Center for Social Gender Studies, believes the idea is good in principle, but that not enough information is available to judge how effective it will be in practice.
The ministry announced the idea over a year ago, in collaboration with the British Council in Egypt, as part of an initiative — “My Rights” — that aims to combat violence against women, according to Fahmy.
The Justice Ministry allocated spaces for support centers in courts in the four governorates with the highest rate of violence against women: Cairo, Alexandria, Aswan and Tanta, the British Council detailed on the program’s webpage.
Fahmy said several women’s rights organizations had requested information about the initiative in order to be able to oversee its implementation, to no avail.
In 2015, the Egyptian government issued a national strategy to combat violence against women, in which it adopted a comprehensive definition of the phenomenon. According to the strategy document, violence against women includes “any violence based on gender which leads or could lead to physical, sexual or psychological harm to women or girls, or threats, acts of oppression, or deprivation of freedom, whether in the public or private spheres.”
According to statistics released in 2005 and adopted in the government’s strategy, 47 percent of women have experienced domestic violence from their husbands, while 45 percent faced violence from other men.
The National Council for Women reported in 2009 that 72 percent of married women and 94 percent of unmarried women were subjected to verbal harassment in the street, with 17 percent of married women and 22 percent of unmarried women reportedly enduring physical harassment in the street.
The Justice Ministry announced measures to combat sexual violence, including better training for members of the prosecution and judiciary at a conference with the UN last week on combatting violence against women.
Fahmy explains that cases involving violence against women, especially domestic violence, rarely make it to court. She says training judges to deal with these cases without cultural bias is an important step forward.
This comes shortly after international day to raise awareness about violence against women on November 25.