“A right is never lost, as long as someone strives to claim it”

Strongly believing in this motto, “HerHonorSettingTheBar” campaigned for 9 years and succeeded in ending one form of discrimination against Egyptian women.  Even though Egyptian women studied law since 1924/100 years ago, they were banned from applying to the judiciary and be judges like their male counterparts since the establishment of the Egyptian judiciary, in violation of the international conventions, constitution and applicable laws. HerHonorSettingTheBar, is the brainchild of our millennial, Omnia Taher Gadalla.

Until October 2021, there was no single woman judge at the State Council, Public Prosecution, or Court of Cassation since these bodies’ establishment in 1946, 1881, 1931 respectively (which remains the case for the Court of Cassation to date), and only two were selected to the Supreme Constitution Court (established 1969). That indeed had broad implications for the democratic legitimacy, equality of representation, and fairness of the justice system. It was also flagrant proof that society is lagging behind the law.

The success story and the great news is that the cause that Her Honor Setting The Bar’s purpose has been accomplished. Its endeavors have been crowned by a tangible result and have finally female law graduates can apply to the judiciary since January 2022.

“HerHonorSettingTheBar” is an awareness and advocacy initiative, aiming to support female law graduates, empower women, and end discrimination by combating the ban on Egyptian women from being judges.[1] To that end, Her Honor Setting The Bar adopted a multidimensional approach. Along with the judicial and legal track, it works on a plethora of social and awareness activities:

  1. Advocacy. “Her Honor” filed cases on behalf of other female graduates, provide legal assistance and afford the expenses of these cases. (unfortunately, all the cases were rejected by the State Council and so are the requests to transfer these cases to the Supreme Constitutional Court)[2]
  2. Publishing about women judges in the national and international judiciary, shed light on their contributions and translate it into Arabic since nothing is mentioned about them. I witnessed how it helps in breaking the stereotypes that women are not capable of being judges and inspire young women that they can too. Instilling these values and self-worth in the coming generation is what will make them able to be in the places they wish, are qualified and deserve to be. I was greatly inspired by the Majesty of the law by Justice O’Connor and My Own Words about the notorious Ginsburg, A memoir of revolution and hope by Sherine Abbady, Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton, and becoming for Michelle Obama.
  3. Increasing public awareness through organizing symposiums in different cities in Egypt, attending conferences and engaging with the community. That helped in keeping the case alive for 9 years and gaining momentum since I started in 2014.
  4. Lobbying and campaign and networking

Dealing with a plethora of governmental and non-governmental institutions. National, regional and maybe international organizations. Communicating with parliament members to pass legislation to enforce the constitution and issue the law of establishing an anti-discrimination commission as per article 53 of the constitution. They also submitted different questions to the minister of justice. I drafted the explanatory memo of the law of women judge’s appointment.

In addition, since 2014, I have submitted 350 complaints by registered mail to the Egyptian President with copies to the First Lady, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, the Parliament’s President, the Head of the Supreme Council of Judiciary, the Head of the State Council, the Head of the Human Rights Committee in the Parliament, the Head of the National Council of Human Rights and the Head of the NCW and many parliament members.

All these accumulative efforts combined with community support are what matter and made a difference and contributed to such a historic step in Egyptian history.

Finally, on March 8, 2021, Egyptian President Abd El-Fattah El-Sisi directed the Minister of Justice to include women judges in the Public Prosecution and the State Council. Accordingly, in October 2021, 11 women were transferred to the Public Prosecution as public prosecutors and another 98 women were transferred from the APA and ESLA to the State Council. However, the most important fact at that time was that discrimination remained and female law graduates were still banned from applying to the judiciary. This is not what “Her Honor” kept advocating for.

Afterwards, due to the cases that “Her Honor” filed to challenge such maneuvering appointments and the criticism that was directed at the practice of ad hoc/  cesarean appointments instead of opening the doors for female law graduates to apply equally, instead of applying the provisions of the constitution, on January 27 and 31, 2022, the State Council and the Public Prosecution opened the gates for the female law graduates to apply – for the first time in history in the case of the latter, and only the second time in that of the former. This revolutionary step promises more and more empowerment for the coming generations< and development for the judiciary as well.

Such a step has been taken after 9 years of litigation and campaigning, attempting to obtain constitutionally fundamental human rights, which were unfortunately violated and severely breached. This was a violation of the right to justice, the right to an official appointment based on an objective criterion, and the right to equal opportunities.

Her Honor Setting The Bar was and still combating such discrimination since 2014 and empowering female law graduates to apply, claim their rights, and advocate on their behalf. It is a remarkable day in history and from now on female law graduates can apply to the judiciary with no discrimination. Such a revolutionary step promises more and more empowerment for the coming generations and development for the judiciary as well.

Her Honor Setting The Bar Statement

https://www.facebook.com/277991102857130/posts/954296588559908/?d=n

About the initiative and its activities Video –

https://www.facebook.com/1076934306/posts/10222728411613709/?d=n

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[1] Referring to the previous article in 2020

Omnia Taher Gadalla: Africa’s Legal Millennial

[2] More details could be found here “Her Honor Setting the Bar: Fighting for Equality in Egypt’s Judiciary” Article for the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

Her Honor Setting the Bar: Fighting for Equality in Egypt’s Judiciary