The second circuit of the Supreme Administrative Court of the State Council postponed reviewing a suit, filed by Omnia Taher Gadallah to challenge a government decision to prohibit female judges from the judiciary, to 24 February.
Gadallah`s challenge calls for suspending the implementation of presidential decree no. 356 of 2015, which stipulates the exclusion and non-appointment of women as judges.
Gadallah graduated from the Faculty of Law of Al Azhar University in 2013 with an A+ GPA and was honoured as the second best student of her class in her faculty.
Gadallah tells her story in detail
Gadallah told Daily News Egypt that the State Council announced in January 2014 its first declaration regarding the acceptance of placement applications from law graduates.
“I went to the State Council to submit my papers, in order to apply for the position of judge, but unfortunately, I was surprised by the State Council’s refusal to receive my papers,” Gadallah said.
She filed a complaint to the office of the State Council president, and filed a report in Dokki police station on the same day to prove the situation, demanding of the State Council to rescind its decision of refusing to receive applications from female graduates.
Gadallah then filed a case, in March 2014, to the Supreme Administrative Court, against the State Council decision.
Meanwhile, she was surprised, in September 2015, that the council limited judicial appointment to males only, under presidential decree no. 356 for 2015.
Moreover, in May 2015, a report by the commissioners committee on appeal, which is a consultative report not binding on the court, rejected the claim, citing the lack of eligibility of women to be appointed.
Gadallah said that is why she decided to file an appeal against this presidential decree.
The first hearing of the appeal was meant to be on 11 November, but the court decided to postpone it to 24 February.
Women’s organisations, parliamentarians, NCW support Gadallah`s case
Gadallah said that she went to the National Council for Women (NCW), in January 2014, and met Mervat Tallawy, who was the council’s president at that time.
She added that Tallawy sent a letter to the State Council inquiring why it refused accepting papers of female applicants and why it refused enrolling women in the council, especially after the constitution recognized the right of women to do so.
Unfortunately, the criticism was not welcomed by the State Council, and members of the State Council Club issued a statement in which they considered Tallawy’s letter a serious interference in the affairs of the judiciary, demanding the president of the council to raise a suit against her, Gadallah said.
She said that her family has supported her from day one. Furthermore, she added that she is now communicating with the NCW and with many human and women’s rights organisations.
Moreover, there are 122 parties including human and women’s rights organisations, public figures, and parliamentarians who announced their support.
The NCW said in a press release that Maya Morsi, NCW’s president, called on judicial authorities to change their view on the appointment of women as judges, to improve Egypt’s image globally, stressing that female appointment in the judiciary is a constitutional right, not a preference.
Also, Ali Abdel Aal, speaker of parliament, called on the judiciary to appoint women as judges, implementing the constitution.
Gadallah not first woman to demand right to join judiciary
There is a history of struggle that begins with Aisha Rateb, whose story is similar to Gadallah`s.
Rateb is the first woman to file a case against the State Council, demanding her right to be appointed to it. But she lost the case; it was rejected because there was no precedent for it.
Rateb was an honours student at the Faculty of Law at Cairo University in 1949, however, the council rejected her request for appointment, even after passing the council’s acceptance test.
Egypt’s 2014 constitution stipulates equality between men and women
Furthermore, Gadallah said that the same reasons given to Rateb more than 70 years ago were given to her now, but she hopes the final results will be different than those of Rateb, especially as the 2014 constitution of Egypt guarantees equality between men and women.
She explained that Article 9 prescribes that the state is committed to achieving equality of opportunities among all citizens, without discrimination.
Moreover, Article 11 prescribes that the state must ensure equality between women and men in all civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
Finally, Article 14 prescribes that citizens have the right to gain government employment on the basis of competence, without favouritism.
Expected scenario from a legal point of view
For his part, Mohamed Samir, counsellor and spokesperson for the Administrative Prosecution Authority, told Daily News Egypt that there is no single reason or judicial justification for refusing the appointment of women to the State Council.
He added that the reason for rejection given by the commissioners committee on appeal, which was that the judiciary is an inappropriate work environment, does not require new legislation, and can easily be solved.
Moreover, Samir said that what is expected next is that Gadallah will file an appeal on the unconstitutionality of depriving her of litigation degrees, with the exception of one degree. The court can then accept the appeal, sending the case to the Supreme Administrative Court, or reject it if seen as not serious enough.
On the other hand, Gadallah ended by saying she will file an appeal on the unconstitutionality of depriving her of litigation degrees, adding that the main issue is the acceptance or rejection of a plea stating the unconstitutionality of the current situation, which is subject to the discretionary power of the State Council, which is her opponent and judiciary at the same time.