Insight - How Tangible Is It to Have Women Judges in The Egyptian State Council?

By Mohamed Ghazy

2021-03-21

With the recent announcement that, for the first time in Egypt's judicial history, women will have the opportunity to be appointed in The Egyptian Council of State at positions being either "Representative" or "Procurator", which are the first steps that would ultimately lead to being appointed as judge. However, any applicants must already hold a position at either the Administrative Prosecution or the State Lawsuit Authority and will be appointed via a transfer process.

The announcement was rather timely, as it came after President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi directed  -on International Women's Day- both the State Council and the Public Prosecution Office to resort to women in both of the aforementioned systems. Evidently, the Council of State was the first to take the initiative.

Unprecedented as it is, the announcement was accompanied by criteria, even more specific criteria than the general ones already present for the appointment of males, and those criteria came to highlight the necessity of first-rateness in the members-to-be-applicants. The novel criteria came as follows:

1-    The Member must hold a minimum grade of "Excellent" or "Very Good" as for her Bachelor's Degree.

2-    The Member must hold two post-graduate diplomas (equivalent to an LLM), with one being focused in Public Law or Administrative Law.

3-    The Member's profile of service must be free of any sanctions or notices.

4-    The Member must pass the personal interview held by a competent panel from the State Council.

5-    The Member must meet all the conditions listed in the State Council Act.

 More specifically, for the applicant to be appointed as "Representative" in the State Council, she must hold a position of "Administrative Prosecutor" at the Administrative Prosecution Office or "Attorney" at the Lawsuit Authority. Contrastingly, she must hold a position of "Administrative Prosecutor of  Excellent Category" at the Administrative Prosecution Office or a position of "Procurator" at the State Lawsuit Authority in order to be appointed as "Procurator" in the State Council.

Now keep in mind that these criteria are in addition to the original criteria set for male applicants (who can apply once they graduate, as the application announcement for the State Council is usually announced at the end of any class' graduation year). The general conditions for males to apply are:

·        To have an accumulative grade "Good" at minimum.

·        To be under 30 years of age at the time of applying.

·        To pass the personal interview.

·        To pass the medical fitness test.

The accepted male applicants are appointed as "Assistant Representative" at the State Council, a grade below the starting position for their female counterparts.

So how possible is it to actually appoint a woman in the State Council?

Possible, despite the vast alteration in dynamic.

The criteria set for females to join the State Council are rather elitist. We cannot tell for certain if it would've been the same case had the applying been available for the current female graduates, but what we can tell is that the requirements to welcome women to the State Council have an explicit aim of filtration. In other words, if the State Council is going to be receiving women to represent it, there must be absolutely no doubt as to their expertise or gravitas. Hence the fact that the potential State Council female members must already be occupying a position at another judicial body, i.e. they are not alien to the atmosphere, at least not as a fresh-graduate would be.

And not to say that the opposite is exactly the case for freshly-graduated male applicants. The State Council, though its periodically announced criteria state that the applicant must hold a "Good" grade to be eligible to apply, does not actually appoint many applicants of that tier, and the majority of appointments are won by applicants with "Very Good" and "Excellent" grades.

Another question arises that is concerned with the age limit. As abovementioned, the announcement breaking the news that women can apply for the State Council highlighted that the newfound requirements are in addition to the general requirements, and those general requirements call for an applicant of 30 years or younger at the time of application. Now given that the appointment of males in the Administrative Prosecution and the State Lawsuit Authority takes roughly 8 years (the latest appointed class was that of 2012, appointed in 2020), how much of a chance does that leave a woman to a) have already graduated with excellent degree and b) be an already established member of another judicial body and had already climbed a significant portion of its ladder all before she turns 30?

Not much of a chance, if the age limit isn’t overlooked.

Last, but definitely not least, the quick response to the President's call by the Egyptian Council of State basically leaves the ball in the Public Prosecution Office's yard: Will the Public Prosecution, the most influential Egyptian judicial body, finally turn its head towards Egyptian women?