SOAS University of London

Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law

Egypt - Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance (CEWLA)

CEWLA is a non-governmental organisation founded in 1995 and one of the most active organisations in Egypt in the field of women's human rights. CEWLA operates to raise awareness of law and of human rights principles among grassroots communities, legal bodies and NGOs. CEWLA campaigns for equality of women, with an emphasis on legal equity and the amendment of discriminatory laws.

CEWLA first began to research the issue of 'honour crimes' in Egypt when invited to a regional workshop in 1999 in Amman. Its preliminary research showed little public awareness of the issue of 'crimes of honour' – including among NGOs - and an absence of adequately categorised data from official departments which might serve to indicate the extent of the phenomenon in Egypt. Surprised by the results of its initial research, CEWLA decided that the subject of 'honour crimes' deserved to be high on its field work agenda, in order to contribute to better information on the subject, and to provide a basis for bringing the issues to public debate.

CEWLA considers in depth documentation as a first step to understanding the nature and extent of 'crimes of honour' in Egypt, until now both unknown and a somewhat taboo subject. CEWLA will undertake documentation of 'honour crimes' through press reports, through a survey to NGOs, and through location and examination of judgments from lower courts (which are not published). Solid documentation will provide a basis for analysis, and CEWLA plans to hold two roundtables in Egypt (one in the North and one in Upper Egypt) to present preliminary results and analysis to lawyers and NGO personnel for discussion and consultation. Priority will be given to an understanding of the socio-economic and cultural contexts as well as to the question of legal remedy, from a gender perspective. At the end of the project a seminar will be held at which CEWLA's final paper will be presented to judges, NGOs and lawyers, and will include policy proposals with a main focus on legal process and provisions.

CEWLA has presented the results and analysis of its research to date to the CIMEL/INTERIGHTS international meeting in February 2002 for discussion, feedback and exchange. It will contribute to the subsequent publication a paper based on its work, including an assessment of the challenges encountered in working on this subject in its areas of activism (for abstract see Publication).