The Egyptian parliament rejected a public decency draft law created by MP Ghada El-Agamy during a three-day session that ended on Tuesday. The bill's aim was to force Egyptian citizens to follow a "dress code" that prohibits people from wearing body-revealing clothes, outfits with pictures and symbols that violate public decency, and ripped jeans.
The draft bill set controversy among MPs in motion. Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal along with multiple members believed that this kind of bill would be a contradiction to the country's constitution, which accepts every person as they are, and that it would be an interference in people's personal affairs.
"I stopped at the expression of public decency because this is an expression that can never be controlled since it covers behavior. It is a relative perspective, something that is acceptable to some people but unacceptable to others," Abdel-Aal explained.
Chairman of the parliament's legislative and constitutional affairs committee, Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka, said all the committee members were in consensus about the fact that the bill was poorly drafted, calling it unclear, vague, and not soundly formulated.
"Legislation should be formulated to address fixed needs in society, a fact which the draft law on public conduct clearly lacks," Abu Shoka added.
One of the articles under El-Agamy's proposed bill, Article 8, demands people in violation of the law to be penalized with a fine ranging between 500 Egyptian pounds ($31) and 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($311).
MP Abdel-Aal pointed out the country's spot among international tourism hubs which brings in millions of visitors from different nationalities. He said that as long as visitors do not harm anyone during their visit, they could dress however they see fit.
El-Agamy defended her bill, telling Arab News that the MPs who had expressed their opinion about the draft had not actually read the content in the first place. She further added that although the MPs have the right to state their opinion, much of what was said about the law was untrue.
According to Ahram news site, this led her to demand her bill be "referred to the concerned committee, and not to the legislative and constitutional affairs committee."
Egypt has had its share of controversy when it comes to revealing outfits
Not only does the Egyptian constitution give people the right to their opinion and form of expression, but it also has laws that permit any citizen to file a lawsuit against anyone they perceive to be guilty of immoral behavior or tarnishing the country's image.
As an example of the latter, a 69-year-old Egyptian lawyer has managed to make a profession out of such lawsuits. According to his own count, Samir Sabry has filed over 6,000 lawsuits and complaints against government ministers, political candidates, authors, and activists over the last decade of his work life.
However, he was placed under the spotlight in August after media outlets got a whiff of trouble between him and Jennifer Lopez. It was reported that Sabry had filed a lawsuit against J-Lo due to her revealing outfit at a concert in the northern Egyptian city of Alamein. He, however, defended himself by saying these were mere false accusations and rumors.
"[Jennifer Lopez] has her own habits and values," he said, "and we have our own codes, our own religious values and our own culture."
Sabry is believed to revel in such cases, and according to the Washington Post, "women are his favorite targets," more specifically any female who he deems to be dressing or acting inappropriately or disrespectfully.