Divorce proceedings for women; whether a Moslem can seek either a religious or civil divorce, or both; whether the husband must agree to the divorce, and if not, whether the wife can obtain the divorce anyway through the civil courts [EGY33646.E]

In a 28 January 2000 report, The Dallas Morning News stated that,

After an impassioned debate about Islam, the family and the role of women, Parliament voted Thursday to broadly expand women's rights in divorce cases.
President Hosni Mubarak had proposed the legislation and is expected to sign it in a week.
Many leading clerics supported the change.
Under the measure, divorce would be more complicated for a woman than a man. A woman would have two choices. She could use the current procedure, which requires a wife to have witnesses to prove that her husband had behaved badly enough to justify divorce, perhaps because he beat her or had failed to provide for her. That process is usually protracted and usually ends in a ruling against the wife. Still, 1.5 million such requests are filed each year, according to government statistics.
A new option would be to demand a divorce based on simple incompatibility. But a woman would have to wait six months if she has children or three months if she does not while a judge tries to reconcile the partners. If she still wants the divorce, a judge would have to grant it. But the woman would have to return all money, property and gifts that she received in the marriage and forgo alimony.
A Muslim man in Egypt can now end a marriage by saying, "I divorce thee" three times or, in a bureaucratic version of the same ancient custom, by filing a paper with a government registrar that declares that he is divorcing his wife.
Under the change, the man's filing of the divorce paper would be mandatory, not optional.

The Irish Times pointed out that "apart from divorce, the new law streamlines personal status procedures. It reduces the previous law's 600 clauses to a mere 81 and creates a family court to hear all personal status cases. In an attempt to reduce costs, plaintiffs will also be required to file cases themselves, instead of using lawyers." (28 Jan. 2000).

According to the Cairo Times,

The compromise version of the bill does grant women the right of khul'-to divorce her husband without cause by renouncing all her financial rights-but she must first pass through three-month arbitration period, involving a mediator from both the husband and wife's family. The clause upholding a wife's right to travel was stricken from the bill.
The bill retained a clause that gave legal recognition to urfi (unregistered) marriage, however, allowing either spouse to sue for divorce before a court. Under previous legislation, courts would not hear cases involving urfi marriage, as it was considered beyond their jurisdiction (31 Jan. 2000).

On 29 January 2000, AP and CNN reported that "a 32-year-old housewife became the first woman [Wafa Mosaad Gabr] to file for divorce under a new law that makes it easier for Egyptian women to leave their husbands." Both news organization added that "if Gabr gets her divorce, she will return the equivalent of $30, which her husband paid as a dowry. But for her three children, she would still get child support payments, which are not affected under the new law."

According to The New York Times:

The situation for Christians, estimated to make up 6 percent of Egypt's population, would remain burdensome, because religious courts administer family law. Unless they can prove that their husbands have committed adultery, the church rarely grants Christian women divorces (28 Jan. 2000).

The Boston Globe commented that women's groups "welcomed the legislation passed by Parliament late Wedenesday night as a restoration of their human rights, and the country's top Muslim theologian said it was in line with Islamic law." (28 Jan. 2000). In the same article, Sara El-Khalil wrote that

The judge will give her three months to try to reconcile with her husband, but if she doesn't change her mind after that time she will be granted an immediate divorce (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Associated Press (AP). 29 January 2000. "Law Makes Egyptian Divorce Easier." http://www.egyptdaily.com/?action=display&article=1103420&template= include/country350.txt [Accessed 31 Jan. 2000]

The Boston Globe. 28 January 2000. Sara El-Khalil. "Egypt Law Makes It Easier for Women to Get Divorce." http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/028/nation/ Egypt_law_makes_it_easier_for_women_to_get_divorce+.shtml [Accessed 28 Jan. 2000]

The Cairo Times. 31 January 2000. Mohammed Abdel Hamid. "Parliament Passes Watered-Down Marriage Law." http://www.cairotimes.com/ [Accessed 31 Jan. 2000]

CNN.com. 29 January 2000. "Egyptian Woman Files for Divorce in First Case Under New Law." http://www.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/ meast/01/29/egypt. women.rights. ap/index.html [Accessed 31 January 2000]

The Dallas Morning News. 28 January 2000. "Women's Divorce Rights Expanded in Egypt." http://dallasnews.com/world/23460_EGYPT28.html [Accessed 28 Jan. 2000]

The Irish Times. 28 January 2000. Siona Jenkins. "Egypt's Women Allowed Divorce But No Support." (NEXIS)

The New York Times. 28 January 2000. Susan Sachs. "Egypt: Egyptian Parliament Votes to Give Women Easier Access to Divorce." (NEXIS)