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Egyptian Divorce Law Withstands Challenge

Women’s rights groups in Egypt praised the High Constitutional Court’s decision last week rejecting a challenge to a law granting women the right to seek divorce, but said that more work needed to be doneAgence France Presse reports. The challenge had been brought by a divorced man who asserted that the law was against sharia or Islamic law, AFP reports. The Khula law was passed in March of 2000 and allowed Egyptian women to unilaterally file for divorce. According to ABC News, prior to this piece of legislation, Egyptian law required a woman to provide solid evidence of abuse, adultery, or whatever her reason to divorce was to an all-male panel of judges, while men could be granted a divorce from his wife in as little as ten minutes without even notifying her of it. The Khula law permits women to seek divorce without her husband or a judge standing in her way, and the proceedings can be finalized in as little as three months.

Passage of this legislation made Egypt the second Arab nation, after Tunisia, to grant women the right to divorce. Since the Khula law’s introduction in 2000, more than 11,714 cases have been brought before Egypt’s courts, AFP reports. Though it has been widely welcomed by Egyptian women’s rights groups, the Khula law is not perfect. The law requires a woman to repay all the money her husband brought into the union and relinquish alimony, causing some to label the law as one designed exclusively for rich women, AFP reports. The law also contains court procedures that delay the judges’ decision. For example, in cases involving children, judges are obligated to try to make couples reconcile on two separate occasions. The president of an association for women’s development, Farida al-Naccash views the Khula law as a “partial solution” for Egyptian women seeking divorce, pointing out that legal procedures were too slow and there are not enough judges to handle divorce cases, according to AFP. But others had a different point of view. “Before this law, women didn’t have any hope,” Farida Shubashi, an Egyptian journalist, told AFP.

Women in the Muslim world are slowly winning more rights to divorce. In December, Iran’s hard-line conservative force approved a bill broadening women’s divorces rights. However, women’s rights in the Muslim world are often marginalized due to the region’s strict interpretation of Islam. A recent report published by the United Nations Development Program and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development stated that the reason the Arab world has not been able to truly modernize is because it has failed to use the full capabilities of Arab women.

Sources:

Agence France Presse 12/17/02; ABC News 6/6/00; Feminist Daily News Wire

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