Update: The first hearing on the case has been scheduled for 30 December 2008.
Mandatory premarital medical testing is an inherently flawed and potentially counter-productive policy that contravenes basic rights, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) argued in a new lawsuit filed yesterday before Egypt's Court of Administrative Justice.
The case challenges the new policy, adopted last summer, requiring all citizens wishing to marry to submit to a comprehensive and mandatory medical examination as a prerequisite for registering their marriage. Mandatory testing, the plaintiffs argue, violates the protection afforded by Egypt's Constitution and international human rights treaties for the rights to privacy and personal autonomy and imposes an excessive limitation on the right to marry and found a family. The new policy further requires individuals to cover the entire cost of any additional medical exams decided by the examining doctor, in addition to the fixed fees of the standard package of exams.
"Instead of implementing public awareness campaigns to encourage voluntary, confidential and regular medical checkups, the government chose to subject citizens to mandatory tests that violate their rights without achieving the purported goals of protecting public health," said Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and one of the plaintiffs in the court case.
The lawsuit, registered as case number 657/63, requests the court to nullify two decrees issued last August by the ministers of health and justice establishing mandatory testing as a condition for the registration of marriages. The plaintiffs are also requesting a stay to appear before the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) in order to challenge the new policy. If the stay is granted, the SCC will be required to issue a binding decision on the constitutionality of Article 31 (bis) of the Civil Status Law. This new article was included in a bill approved by the Parliament last June introducing amendments to the Child Law and related legislations.