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Egypt appoints 31 female judges despite conservative opposition

[JURIST] Thirty-one Egyptian women have been appointed as judges despite ongoing resistance from the nation's conservative Muslims, according to a decree published Wednesday by the head of Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council [POGAR backgrounder]. Council chief Mukbil Shakir selected the judges from a pool of state prosecutors who had passed a test for the positions, though it is unclear to which courts the women will be assigned. The move marks the first time women have been named to preside over criminal or civil cases, though in 2003 Tahany el-Gebaly became the nation's first woman judge [report] as a member of the Egyptian constitutional tribunal.

Many critics, primarily conservative Muslims, feel that the move is a violation of Sharia law [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Article Two of Egyptian Constitution [text, in English] states that "the principal source of legislation is the Sharia." Article Two is the result of a 1980 constitutional amendment and has been interpreted to prohibit the enactment of legislation are in fundamental contradiction with traditional Sharia interpretations. Last week, the president of the Egyptian judges' syndicate questioned the appropriateness [JURIST report] of women judges deliberating "alone in a room with two or more male judges" and assert that women judges will inevitably "become pregnant at some point, and that [the judge's pregnancy] will certainly have an impact on the [judicial] prestige and on judges' public image." Feminist advocates, on the other hand, criticized the move because only state prosecutors were considered for the judgeships. AP has more.

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