The UN Working Group on discrimination against women [official website] on Friday expressed grave concern [press release] over Egypt's draft constitution [text, PDF], scheduled for a referendum on Saturday. Independent expert Kamala Chandrakirana noted that almost no women were included in the Constituent Assembly that approved the draft constitution [JURIST report] last month, saying that, "women's perspectives were grossly under-represented in the final draft." The working group expressed concern that equality between the sexes is not among the draft's substantive provisions and urged further critical review:
We urge the Egyptian Government to ensure women's full and equal participation in all processes related to the political transition, to guarantee their freedom to express their views, to be protected against violence in their political and public activities and have their voices incorporated in public discourse and in shaping the society. Further, the Government should ensure that the Constitution provides the strongest guarantees to advance equality and women's human rights in line with Egypt's obligations under international law.The group is also seeking clarification on the independence of the judiciary and the role of women in the judicial system.
Last week UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] expressed grave concern [JURIST report] at the rising death toll during the ongoing political chaos in Egypt, saying that Egypt's draft constitution presents serious problems for human rights. Pillay complained [UN News Centre report] that the draft constitution was passed without the participation of Christian or liberal legislators. Pillay also said that she was concerned about the draft constitution's omission of references to international human rights treaties that Egypt ratified in the past. While Pillay commended the fact that the draft constitution imposes term limits on President Mohammed Morsi [BBC backgrounder] and provides some protections for freedom of expression and religion, she noted that these protections were not strong enough.