Glass Ceiling Cracks in Egypt, but Would-Be Judges Still Hear: ‘No Girls’


Ms. Gadalla’s legal battle is still underway, but a few of her cases — she brings new ones with each setback — have been dismissed on the basis of the court’s “discretionary powers.”

That, she notes, is part of the challenge: Ms. Gadalla is suing the State Council, the very same judicial body that handles all decisions in which the government is a party.

She was not impressed by the government’s decision to name the nearly 100 women to the court.

“It’s window dressing,” Ms. Gadalla said. “Every young woman who graduates, regardless of how well qualified she might be, will still not be admitted.”

When the women were sworn in on Tuesday, the occasion was accompanied by grand pronouncements.

“Today is a national event,” declared Judge Mohamed Hossam Eldin, chief justice of the State Council. “Our duty as the State Council is to preserve their rights as women in the constitution and the law.”

But the near exclusion of women from the courts, critics say, means that they rarely participate in decisions that pertain to their everyday lives, including those touching on marriage, divorce and inheritance, as well as the crimes of harassment, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Judge Eldin was the head judge named in court decisions that dismissed Ms. Gadalla’s efforts to allow women to be hired under the same set of rules that have allowed men to dominate Egypt’s courts.

Ms. Gadalla is not the only woman to file suit. So did Noor El-Gohary, who graduated with a law degree last year and was turned away from applying for vacant positions that opened this year.

“At one point, I walked through a courthouse and saw all these guys my age standing around waiting to be interviewed,” Ms. El-Gohary said. “It was hard to see just how they were the ones who got the opportunity.”



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