Women judges have presided over a hearing of Egypt’s State Council for the first time in the country’s latest move towards female empowerment.
A total of 98 females were inducted across two ceremonies and sat on their first hearings for the council, a powerful tribunal that reviews draft laws and rules over administrative matters and legal disputes in which the state is a party.
Until the sessions on Saturday and Sunday, the State Council had been one of two Egyptian judicial bodies that consisted of all-male benches.
The women had been sworn in by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in October, who decreed at the time that the country’s prosecution service — the other all-male judicial body — should also include female members.
“Today is a historic day for all Egyptian women,” said Yasmine Helmy, one of the presiding judges at Sunday’s State Council session.
“But for me on a personal level, this has been a dream of mine since I was in university. So you can imagine how happy and proud I am.”
The State Council lauded the event as an important step forward for Egypt’s Vision 2030, a national plan that has become one of the cornerstones of Mr El Sisi's government.
Maya Morsi, president of the National Council for Women, attended the ceremony on Saturday. In an impassioned address, she paid tribute to Egyptian lawyer Aisha Rateb.
Rateb was a respected politician who, after serving as Minister of Insurance and Social Affairs from 1974-1977, went on to become Egypt’s first female ambassador, to Denmark.
“For women to be entrusted with such an important responsibility in the state’s affairs is a huge honour to me,” Maha El Tantawy, another of the council’s new members told The National. “The solemnity of today’s ceremony reminds us of the responsibility that has now been placed on women to play their part in Egypt’s future.”
Women are among Mr El Sisi’s top constituents. Since he assumed the presidency in 2014, he has toughened penalties on sexual harassment and rape, as well as outlawing FGM.
A constitutional amendment in 2018 gave women 25 per cent of parliamentary seats, a percentage hitherto unseen in Egypt.
Additionally, Mr El Sisi’s Cabinet has a record eight women ministers.