Because of the traditions and the laws that prevent sexual relations outside of the framework of marriage, some Egyptian women have sex secretly and some become pregnant.
The solution can be either an abortion or keeping the child and becoming a mother out of wedlock. However, because abortion is illegal in Egypt, doctors who perform the procedure can face between three and 15 years in prison.
However, for a large sum of money — or worse — a woman can find a doctor who will perform an abortion in secret. It goes without saying that those abortions are oftentimes carried out in primitive and unsanitary conditions.
What follows is the experiences of three women who agreed to be interviewed by Deutsche Welle Arabic about their experiences:
Asma al-Sayyid, 24
"It started when I met a man when I was studying at university. We fell in love, and the relationship became physical. I was quite surprised when I became pregnant. He had promised to marry me , but when I asked him to keep his promise, he refused. I was even more surprised when I learned that everything he had told me about himself were lies," Asma al-Sayyid, 24, related.
Asma thought about committing suicide, because she feared the shame the pregnancy would bring her and her family, but she was unsuccessful. She then decided to have an abortion and found a doctor willing to perform the operation. Because she couldn’t afford to pay, the doctor told her she would have to have sex with him in exchange for the procedure.
Asma rejected his offer and decided to keep the baby. "My family understood what happened, and my mother died of a broken heart because of the shame I had brought on them. They disowned me."
Afterward, Asma found a job to support herself. Her employer said he would help her out. But it wasn’t from a fatherly point of view, she says, but because he wanted to marry her. In fact, he had already proposed to her in secret.
"Despite the large age difference, I eventually decided to marry him to be able to adequately provide for my child,” she said.
Asma said she wished that abortion were legal in Egypt. "If I had been able to get an abortion, my family would not have known anything about my situation and there wouldn't be a child in my life now. The government doesn't allow abortions even for women who are married because of the sharia.
"I think about committing suicide all the time, but then I think about the future of my child and worry that no-one else will take care of her. I am alive because of her. Why has my life been destroyed because of a mistake I made? I have the right to live an honorable life with my child. Why does the society and the state make it so hard for me?" she asked.
Hiba said that her father forced her to leave her school and go to work so that the family would be able to pay for her twin brother's education. She got involved with a colleague at work, and they got into a physical relationship.
However, when she became pregnant, he abandoned her.
Hiba started looking for a safe way to have an abortion and went to a doctor. When offered her the choice of having to have sex with him or not having an abortion, she chose the former.
She blames her father and brother for what happened to her, because they took her out of school and sent her to work.
Amira Hussein, 19
When Amira was at university, she was duped by a senior scholar, who professed to love her and promised her an incredible future together with him which included a job at the university.
When she became pregnant, she was not upset, but later, after he abandoned her, she came to regret it.
"The scholar went on to obtain a very high position in the country,” she says, “but he left me when I became pregnant."
Amira decided to have an abortion and was one of the fortunate women who was able to pay for it.
Noted Egyptian women's rights lawyer Reda el-Danbouki is the director the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness, a non-governmental organization that works for equality and opportunities for women. He says that even though abortion is a crime, the procedure is commonplace in Egypt and prosecutions rarely take place.
"This is because when it happens, it is done in secret and no-one speaks about it,” El-Danbouki said. “If news gets out it's only because something happens, especially if the mother dies as a result of the abortion.
“Even if it is discovered, it's a very hard thing to prove. The number of convictions is very low as well, because the judges understand the social and economic reasons that can cause a woman — married or unmarried — to have an abortion. In these cases, judges try to look for reasons to acquit the defendants."