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EGYPT: Debate about female judges raises questions of discrimination

 LA Times - March 22, 2010 | 10:59 am

The row over appointing female judges to the State Council, Egypt's highest legal authority, will linger for a while after the council on Monday postponed a final decision on the matter.

The council, which presides over questions regarding the exercise of state power, said a decision won't be handed down until another committee of judges is formed to render an opinion on whether female judges will be admitted or not. It has already been more than a month since 334 out of 380 judges forming the council's general assembly voted against hiring female judges.

The saga started last summer when nearly 300 women applied and were interviewed for judicial vacancies, prompting 95 judges to ask the assembly's emergency convention to discuss and vote on the eligibility of women to apply for such posts. Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif supports the hiring of female judges. Out of Egypt's 12,000 judges, only 42 are women.

"The continuing discrimination insults the many Egyptian women who are fully qualified to serve as judges," said Nadia Khalife, a women's rights researcher for Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch.

A statement issued by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights urged that women should be equally considered for positions in public prosecutions.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo


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