Amendments on the Egyptian divorce laws

The most controversial laws relating to divorce in Egypt are the 'Law of Access' to children and the 'Khul Law' which grants a woman the right to divorce her husband.

 

'Khul' is the Islamic equivalent of the no-fault divorce law in western societies, and is governed by Egyptian family law that was instituted in 2000. This law stipulates that the husband and wife may agree on the terms of 'Khul' leading to a mutually agreed divorce. If they fail to agree the wife may file a proceeding to release herself from the marriage, and by so doing waive all her financial rights including having to return the dowry paid to her family at the inception of marriage. The court will have three months to try to reconcile the marriage by appointment of two arbiters, by which point the court can then grant a divorce if the woman still believes there is no salvaging of the marriage.

 

Following any divorce in Egypt the mother is traditionally given custody of the children. The National Council for Women submitted a law in 2007 that gave the right of divorced men to see their children while they are in the custody of the former wife. This allows the non custodial father access to the children for a minimum of three hours per week.

 

The issues of contention with the 'Access Law' are matters such as: the number of access hours for both parents; the access granted or not to uncles, aunts and grandparents and the time granted for visitation. (different to access hours)

 

The issues of contention with the 'Khul Law' are: the lack of appeal available after a court decision; the fact that contrary to Sharia Law the husband's approval is not needed and the time that the court takes to make the decision.

 

Opponents of these laws believe that they have contributed to the destruction of Egyptian families and the rising divorce rates that is reported to be one case every six minutes or around 10% of Egyptian children being from divorced parents. They also see the Khul Law as a contradiction to Islamic Shari'a law, because it gives the woman the right to divorce. Likewise, they believe that the law governing access rights disregards men's rights and can damage family relations by denying access to wider family members. They also object to the fact that visitation times are dictated by the mother and she is not legally obliged to co-operate.

 

The proponents of the Family Laws believe that they were adopted after a long struggle by civil rights organisations fighting for women's rights in a male dominated society and that any change in the law should only increase the power of women in Egypt. They believe that these new laws have made divorce through the courts possible and have protected women from the abusive husbands.