The Equal Rights Trust has launched A Past Still Present: Addressing Discrimination and Inequality in Egypt. Combining testimony from survivors of discrimination with extensive desk-based research. The report provides, for the first time, a comprehensive assessment of the rights to equality and non-discrimination in Egypt. The report, which is the latest in the Trust’s country report series, is the outcome of three years of research undertaken in partnership with civil society organisations in Egypt. It highlights patterns of discrimination and inequality arising on grounds ranging from political opinion to health status, and analyses the country’s legal and policy framework on equality and non-discrimination, finding it inadequate to meet the state’s international obligations.
In January 2014, three years after a revolution which ended the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt adopted a new Constitution. The preamble to the 2014 Constitution notes that the 2011 revolution served as “a sign of a past that is still present and a good omen of a future to which all humanity aspires”, going on to state that it “achieves equality (…) in rights and duties with no discrimination”.
Yet, A Past Still Present finds that the state has not taken the action required to fulfil these aspirations. The government has failed to repeal myriad legal provisions which discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, sexual orientation and other characteristics, and has adopted new laws which discriminate on the basis of political opinion and other grounds. State actors have continued to discriminate against religious and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities and others with relative impunity. The state has not – despite a constitutional requirement to do so – taken steps to establish a dedicated, independent equality body, or adopt a comprehensive equality law. The isolated legal provisions which prohibit discrimination and discriminatory violence are poorly enforced.
Thus, despite the promise of freedom, equality and social justice heralded by the 2011 revolution and the adoption of the 2014 Constitution, Egypt has not escaped its history. For groups and individuals long exposed to discrimination, the past is very much still present.