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MP Margaret Azer Under Fire for Proposing the Penalty for Adultery Be the Same for Men and Women

Several members of parliament, including Elhamy Agina and Amena Nosair, decry Maragaret Azer's proposed bill to make the penalty for adultery gender-neutral.

Egyptian member of parliament and leader of the ‘Support Egypt’ coalition Margaret Azer has come under fire for proposing a bill making the penalty for adultery the same for both men and women, The Independent reports.

The country’s civil code, in its current state, stipulates that a woman who commits adultery be sentenced to two years in prison while a man only has to serve six months for the same ‘crime’, a punishment which only applies if he commits the act in the couple’s marital home. An Egyptian man also walk free if he kills his wife and her lover if he catches her in the act, while an Egyptian woman is tried for murder.

Despite her bill’s consistency with Sharia law - the main source of legislation as per Article 2 of Egypt’s constitution, which imposes a gender-neutral punishment for adultery – Azer’s proposition was very poorly received in Egypt’s predominantly conservative parliament.

Parliament’s Legislation Committee member and Azhar Scholar Amena Nosair argues that the punishment for women should be more severe due to the potential paternity confusion that may arise from a woman’s adultery, and calls for the rejection of the bill.

Nosair’s stance is also shared by independent MP and member of parliament’s human rights committee Elhamy Agina, who said: “The woman is the main reason behind adultery, not the man.”

Agina also believes women should undergo female genital mutilation because Egyptian men are impotent, and proposed that female students take virginity tests as part of college admission requirements.

The bill is up for debate, according to Religion Committee Secretary Omar Hamroush, who says Azer’s proposed amendment’s compliance with Sharia law has yet to be verified.

Being a Christian, most of the pushback against Azer’s bill is believed to be motivated by sectarianism; however, the MP argues that “neither Sharia nor any of the [other] Abrahamic religions prescribe a penalty for adultery that discriminates based on gender.”

“I am a representative of the whole nation, including the Muslim nation and the Coptic [Christian] one,” she said.

Nevertheless, the bill has been endorsed by former head of Al Azhar University’s fatwa committee, Gamal Qutb, who said that there is “nothing wrong with making equivalent the [penalty for] men and women who are involved in the crime of adultery,” adding that equality is a general Islamic principle.

(Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Elfiqi/Pool)