Why is Egypt's draft constitution so controversial? (+video)
Protesters took to the streets in Cairo and other Egyptian cities today over a draft constitution written by Islamists. Here are the points many in Egypt are talking about.
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Under former President Hosni Mubarak, Baha'is, as well as Ahmadis, Shiites, and Quranists were regularly arrested for their beliefs.Skip to next paragraph
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On women's rights, an article in a previous draft said women's equality was guaranteed so long as it did not contradict Islamic law. That clause was dropped completely from the final version.
But the article prohibiting discrimination fails to mention sex, or any other grounds, simply stating that "citizens are equal before the law and equal in rights and obligations without discrimination." While some rights activists feel the broader clause is better because it doesn't limit the prohibition on discrimination, Morayef says it could be detrimental for women's rights to not explicitly prohibit discrimination against them.
The only article that specifically mentions women's rights says that the state should "balance between a woman's obligations to family and public work" and provide "special protection" for single mothers, divorced women, and widows. The vague wording could give grounds for the state to interfere in a woman's rights – for example, if it decided a woman should not travel because she was not balancing her obligations to her family by doing so.
The same article states that the "state should commit to preserving the true nature of the Egyptian family," and the next article states that the state should "protect ethics and morals and public order."
According to Human Rights Watch, the language in these provisions is overly broad and could be used to restrict rights. What's more, the constitution says that the rights and freedoms it guarantees may be exercised as long as they do not contradict the principles in these articles. According to Human Rights Watch, that stipulation "appears appears to place the 'true nature of the family” and morals and public orders above fundamental rights."
But rights activists point to positive points in the new document, as well.
The document specifically mentions and prohibits torture, something rights activists had pushed for. Police abuse and torture, widespread under Mubarak and until now, was one of the main grievances of protesters during the uprising against the former president. The document also promises protection from arbitrary detention, another hallmark of the Mubarak years, and provides protection for freedom of movement, privacy of communication, and freedom of assembly and association, according to Human Rights Watch.
The new constitution guarantees the Egyptian military many of the prerogatives it had sought to maintain since the transition began. The military's attempt a year ago to maintain its power and privileges brought thousands of protesters – including the Muslim Brotherhood – into the streets of Cairo.
Now, the constituent assembly dominated by the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party has granted the military much, though not all, of what it wanted. The military's budget is protected from parliamentary oversight, one of its demands last year. The constitution provides for the establishment of a National Defense Council, whose members include government and military officials, that will oversee the defense budget and should be consulted on laws relating to the military. The constitution also mandates that the post of defense minister be filled by a military officer.