Radwa Helmi made history on Saturday as the first female judge to sit on the bench of Egypt’s State Council, a supreme court in the Arab country.
Helmi, who appeared at a courthouse in Cairo, was one of 98 women appointed last year to join the council, one of Egypt’s main judicial bodies, following a decision by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi .
“March 5 has become another historic day for Egyptian women,” said Maya Morsi, head of the National Women’s Council (NCW).
The move came ahead of March 8 International Women’s Day.
Women in Egypt, the most populous Arab country, have struggled for years to secure their rights.
Egypt has hundreds of female lawyers, but it took decades for one to climb the judicial ladder and become a judge.
The first was Tahany al-Gebaly, who was appointed to the Supreme Court of Egypt in 2003.
Gebaly held that position for ten years before being removed in 2012 by then-Islamic President Mohamed Morsi.
While no law prohibits women from being judges in Egypt, the judiciary in the conservative Muslim-majority country has traditionally been a male domain.
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The State Council was established in 1946 as an independent body that mainly rules in administrative and disciplinary disputes.
Since the establishment of Egypt as a modern state in the 19th century, women have been marginalized.
Women were given the right to vote and run for public office in 1956, but their personal rights were violated.
Most women have no authority over their children or their personal lives, and this responsibility is often delegated to male guardians, under Islamic Sharia law.
Women currently hold about a quarter of cabinet posts and some 168 seats in the 569-member parliament.
In May 2021, the Grand Imam of the prestigious Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Sunni institution, joined the debate.
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb said no religious edict prevents women from holding high positions, traveling alone or having a fair share of inheritance rights.
But he stopped saying that women should have equal rights with men.