Women’s rights at risk in Arab revolts: US
NEW YORK — Women are being shut out of political life in the aftermath of democracy revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday.
Clinton, speaking at the Women in the World conference in New York, said that the two North African countries had “inspired” with their recent overthrow of decades-old regimes.
However, she warned that women, despite taking part in the street protests, now risked a reduction in rights. Clinton is due to travel to Egypt and Tunisia next week.
“Unfortunately, in both countries now there is a very real danger that the rights and opportunities of women could be eroded in this transition period,” Clinton said in the speech to the conference.
Clinton said that only two women were on Tunisia’s transitional government — fewer than the number serving under ousted strongman Ben Ali. “There is even talk of rolling back the country?s historic Personal Status Code that has protected women?s rights for half a century,” Clinton said.
“In Egypt, the women who marched for freedom in Tahrir Square are now shut out of the committees and the councils deciding the shape of Egypt?s new democracy,” Clinton said.
“The Constitutional Committee has not a single woman member. And when women marched on Tuesday to celebrate International Women?s Day in their new democracy, they were met by harassment and abuse.
“Now the women of Tunisia and Egypt are working hard to ensure that these developments do not derail the transition to democracy.”
Earlier this week Clinton said Washington would push for women to be included in the transition process.
“The United States will stand firmly for the proposition that women must be included in whatever process goes forward. No government can succeed if it excludes half of its people from important decisions,” Clinton said.
The chief US diplomat said women who took part in mass protests in central Cairo — which forced president Hosni Mubarak to step down last month — “were clearly saying they expected to have a voice and a vote in the future.”
“We will certainly be watching and the world will watch,” Clinton said.