Academic journal article Ahfad Journal

The New Egyptian Family Law. (Research Notes)

Academic journal article Ahfad Journal

The New Egyptian Family Law. (Research Notes)

Article excerpt

Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban And Patricia D. Moore (2002) The New Egyptian Family Law. Rhode Island College, Rhode Island, USA.

On January 29 2000, President Hosni Mubarak signed into jaw amendments to the Personal Status Law that amounted to a quiet revolution in the family law legislation. The proposals that were signed into law had been discussed for a number of years and, significantly, passed muster with the religious sheikhs at the world famous al-Azhar Islamic University. Most important, the new laws reflect changing social and political conditions in Egypt, the pulse of the Middle East.

At the heart of the changes are the amendments to the divorce law, and indeed from the moment we arrived and announced our common interest in family law from the course we had taught together at RIC for over a decade, the first question was "what do you think of our new divorce law"? In fact, the reforms of Law No. 1, 2000 are a part of a basic Family Law that has been amended only twice before, in 1979 and 1985 since it was originally promulgated in 1925 during colonial times. And the process was deliberately slow, beginning in 1990 when it was introduced by Suzanne Mubarak and then discussed in the law schools and universities and debated in the Parliament. Given that family law matters are sensitive, are based in Qur'anic verses and interpretation, and the considerable debate in Egypt between liberal and conservative opinion it is remarkable that consensus was achieved. In the end the al-Azhar scholars gave their blessing. This is what makes the current amendment so interesting for it seems to satisfy bot h religious and secular interests in the country.

Some of the outstanding features of the new law include:

1) Revival of khul' divorce, a traditional Muslim process whereby a woman can obtain a divorce without the agreement of her husband by returning the dower gifts and money he gave her at the time of their marriage. In effect she ransoms herself out of the unwanted marriage and no longer has to come to court for divorce complaining her husband beats and insults her. Mandatory mediation for 60 days using arbitrators from each family was kept for khul' divorce as is the case for any court divorce. The advantage of the khul' divorce is that it avoids the shame of the wife going to court while lifting her traditional burden of proof to demonstrate her husband's neglect or abuse. The husband's unilateral right to divorce had already been reformed over the past several decades by demanding support for her for two years after the divorce and for the children until their majority. Most controversial of all the past reforms was the awarding of the house or apartment to the wife in cases where there are young children. H ousing costs are a major issue in expensive cities like Cairo whose population has swelled to 17 million. These reforms have caused many men to complain that they were losing their rights. Now the marital playing field may appear to be a little more level with women having an equal right to divorce but losing much of the personal support to which they were previously entitled.

Although it is too early to tell how many women will take advantage of the new law, ironically it may be that women will pay dearly for their new rights in khul divorce. …

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