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Marital Rape in EgyptSo far, no legal action has occurred to criminalize marital rape in Egypt. As an Islamic country, Sharia law manages issues involving marriage, inheritance, divorce and child custody.

A Voice on Instagram

Egyptian fashion designer Nada Adel was married to Tameem Youness, a musician. Now divorced, Adel said in an Instagram video that people should not ignore rape just because two people are married. She claims her husband raped her while they were married for a year. This sparked debate over social media and many women called for legal action.

Adel’s ex-husband denied her claims, and those in favor of Sharia law claimed that marital rape in Egypt was nonexistent. In fact, social media user Amr Sabry argued that unless a woman is too sick or too tired, rape cannot exist within the marriage.

Who is Joining the Cause?

Actresses like Mona Zaki have spread awareness in the past by playing wives in scenes where the husband tries to force intercourse. More celebrities are taking action by prompting legislation to criminalize marital rape in support of Adel. Journalist Amr Adeeb and actress Somaya El Khashab are just two examples of renowned individuals fighting for a change in legislation.

In June 2021, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a statement about the violence women experience in Egypt. Bachelet stated that violence percentages have risen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many staying home and quarantining, women have suffered at the hands of their husbands. She claimed that many women do not report the men out of fear of their community shaming them, family members initiating verbal or physical attacks on them and authorities not believing them.

Further, many women cannot report marital rape in Egypt because many do not see marital rape as an issue. Bachelet has urged for change in legislation for a better future for women in Egypt.

Religious Boundaries

Currently, a woman who reports marital rape may only succeed in their husband receiving a charge for hitting them, resulting in a misdemeanor for the husband. Ahmed El-Sabag, a scholar with Al-Azhar, claims that a husband forcing a wife into intercourse is unlawful under Sharia law.

Quoting two verses from the Quran, El-Sabag says that a husband must not have sex with his wife while she is menstruating, as to remain pure. Purity is something the relationship should have before intercourse. Therefore, violent husbands are in violation of Islamic Sharia.

The second verse explains that since wives carry children, they have a task of honor and should receive honorable treatment. A husband should show righteousness when approaching his wife and keep in mind that he respects Allah when doing so.

How Less Sexual Violence Leads to Less Poverty

Women who depend on someone else to provide food, water, shelter, clothing and more often feel they do not have a right to revoke consent, especially if they have children. However, victims of sexual violence are often the ones living in poverty. As those at greater risk, women become marginalized, leading to more stigma that results in wage gaps, violence and dependency. This leads to more families and women in poverty.

A Movement of Hope

Islamic Sharia law prohibits marital rape. It is the stigma surrounding gender that causes people to take the Quran out of context. Therefore, criminalizing marital rape for Egyptians would not violate religious expectations. As many women and men fight for these human rights, hope is an enduring light.

– Selena Soto
Photo: Unsplash

Ahmed Helmy regional ambassador UNICEFAhmed Helmy is an Egyptian actor, comedian and TV personality. Best known for his work in films such as “Molasses,” “Zaki Chan” and “Scarecrow,” Helmy is famous throughout Egypt and the Middle East, with more than 15 million followers on Instagram. Furthermore, he has served as a popular judge on Arabs Got Talent and a Samsung ambassador. While he is beloved for his acting skills and charisma, Helmy’s work with UNICEF has also received positive attention from fans. In 2017, the actor was named an ambassador for the Egypt branch of the charity. In June 2021, Ahmed Helmy became the UNICEF regional ambassador for the Middle East and North Africa.

Social Media Campaigns on Childhood Development Issues

As UNICEF’s Egypt ambassador, Helmy participated in a number of social media projects, such as the #FightUnfair campaign. #FightUnfair sought to draw attention to issues impacting Egyptian youth, such as poverty and child labor. Another campaign that Helmy participated in was the #EarlyMomentsMatter movement, which highlighted the importance of early childhood development and establishing healthy parenting habits early in a child’s life. The campaign was widely successful and featured other famous UNICEF ambassadors, such as David Beckham.

Helmy’s work with UNICEF has often involved his own family, as his wife, actress Mona Zaki, is a UNICEF Egypt ambassador herself. Together, the couple made videos discouraging violent forms of disciplinary action toward children. A collaboration between UNICEF, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) and the European Union allowed the campaign to reach more than 80 million people.

Visiting Refugee Children

In addition to social media campaigns, Helmy’s humanitarian work included visits to communities served by UNICEF. For example, in November of 2018, the actor visited Syrian refugee children at Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. At the camp, UNICEF supports the quality education of more than 19,000 children. Following the visit, Helmy reflected on the experience, saying, “By ensuring every child can receive an education, healthcare, clean water and access to spaces where they feel protected and nurtured, UNICEF is giving vulnerable children hope for a better future, one where they can truly fulfill their potential.”

Helmy’s New Role as Regional Ambassador

In his new role as the UNICEF regional ambassador for the Middle East and North Africa, Ahmed Helmy hopes to continue to help children reach their potential. Specifically, he plans to focus on standing up for children’s rights and promoting awareness of early childhood development issues. Helmy’s work with UNICEF is an example of a celebrity harnessing their social influence for good. In his new role, Helmy has the potential to promote even more positive social change for the many children impacted by UNICEF’s work.

– Nina Lehr
Photo: Wikimedia Commons