THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Egypt Supreme Court backs women judges
March 15, 2010
(AP) CAIRO — Egypt's Constitutional Court backed the right of women judges to sit on the bench in the state's administrative courts, despite opposition from conservatives, state media reported Monday.
The ruling follows a dispute within the State Council, the top administrative court, over whether women should be appointed.
The body's general assembly voted overwhelmingly against female judges, reigniting a debate within the country over women holding senior government posts, particularly in the judiciary.
Women's groups picketed the State Council following the decision.
The court's supervisory body, however, is headed by a moderate and overruled the assembly, saying women should be considered for the job. The prime minister then referred the standoff to the Constitutional Court.
The top court's ruling Sunday said all citizens are equal before the law, and backed the State Council's supervisory body's jurisdiction over the issue.
Nasser Amin, a legal expert, said however the ruling was not "decisive" and debates within the administrative courts could still continue along the conservative-liberal faultline.
"This is a conflict between liberals and conservatives within all instituations of the state," he said. "The Constitutional Court could have put an end to it by saying discriminating against women in public office is unconstitutional and must stop."
The president appointed the first female judge to the Constitutional Court in 2003 and four years later 31 other female judges were installed.
Despite seeing beginning of the women's emanicipation movement in the Middle East and being the birthplace of several historic activists for women's rights, Egypt has lagged behind other Arab countries like Tunisia in appointing women judges.