Sunday, May 23 2021
The Unit of Research and Studies at the Forum for Dialogue for Development and Human Rights on May 23, 2020 issued a report about “Females in debt in Egypt” under the title “Signature on blank… The road to prison“.
The report explained that the phenomenon of women in debt is a social phenomenon that troubles society and reveals a serious flaw in its structure and highlights the financial illiteracy of Egyptian women and the lack of awareness of the legal papers that are signed, as well as the exaggeration of marriage demands that pressure the family into debt.
The report pointed out that figures and statistics circulated by government officials about the reality of women’s failure to pay personal loans raised fears of the continuation of the phenomenon and its negative effects on family, economic and social stability, whose effects are mostly borne by women and children.
The report also indicated that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi paid great attention to the crisis, so he launched the “Egypt without Men or Women in debts” initiative in 2015 through the “Tahya Misr” Fund, which allocated 30 million pounds to treat the problem. It was able to relieve the anguish of many debtors and the “Prisons Without debtors” initiative in 2018, which aimed to relieve the anguish of the debtors and pay their debts through 42 million pounds that were allocated from the funds of the Tahya Misr Fund in support of the initiative and to preserve the family entity, as well as the National Committee for the Care of the Debtors, and succeeded in relieving the anguish of more than 6000 male and female debtors.
With regard to the state’s efforts to combat the phenomenon of debtors, the report clarified that the state works by all means to eliminate this phenomenon, whether by studying it or by supporting women economically and socially and protecting them from falling into the clutches of religion.
The report also indicated that in 2015, an alternative plan and a radical treatment for the problem of debtors began. So, the state worked on three integrated directions, the first of which is the continuation of the amnesty for the debtors and their exit on official occasions, and the second direction is to study the phenomenon and treat it, and find out its causes, especially since it has cultural, social and economic dimensions. In this regard, the committee was formed based on the mandate of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. The third trend is to support women who are in debt after they leave and face life so that they do not go back to prison again, in addition to supporting female breadwinners.
For the causes of the phenomenon of Women in Egyptian society, the report stated that the most important of these reasons is the crises caused by the high requirements of marriage, which led to women’s harm to obtain unsecured loans to buy exaggerated consumer goods, and ignorance plays a pivotal role in the crisis of debtors.
For what is known “Burning the Commodity”, which means that a woman buys a commodity in high prices by monthly installments, then at once she burns it by selling it by cheap prices to benefit from the cash flow to meet an urgent need and limit default in the payment of installments. Another reason which is known “guaranty” as the women guarantee one of their relatives. When the first party defaulted on payment, the second becomes defaulted and is accused. Likewise, when the woman in debt is supporting a family due to the husband’s illness, which forces her to buy the children necessitates and borrow money, and consequently default occurs.
With regard to the number of fines, the report indicated that there is no accurate statistics on the number of fines in Egypt, but according to official estimates, the number of female prisoners in prison reaches 30,000, which represents between 20-25% of prisoners in Egypt.
The report also clarified the role of associations and civil society institutions in solving the problems of fines, as well as the contribution of police officers to eliminate the phenomenon, according to the report.
Regarding how to eliminate the phenomenon of women in debts, the report referred to several important proposals, including: organizing a course for introductions to borrowing in which all procedures are explained, developing new legislation based on humanitarian principles, and controlling the informal credit market. With a law that sets a maximum limit for micro-credit, and the adoption of alternative penalties for imprisonment in debtor cases, as demanded by the National Center for Social and Criminal Research. In addition to activating the role of the media in raising awareness not to be drawn into consumption patterns to reduce the financial burden on the family, and to replace another penalty with the penalty of imprisonment for the male and female debtors, provided that the penalty for the fine is to perform a symbolically paid social service performed for a specified period.