Global Resources

Recent Reforms in Personal Status Laws and Women's Empowerment: Family Courts in Egypt

Author: M. Al-Sharmani
Publisher: American University in Cairo
Publication Date: Sep 2008
Since 2000 a series of reforms have been introduced in Egyptian family laws. These include legislation that: gives women the right to file for no-fault divorce (khul) in exchange for forfeiting their financial rights; and women in unregistered marriages (urfi) the right to file for divorce. In 2004 a law was also passed introducing family courts aimed at establishing a legal system that is responsive to family interests, as well as being accessible and affordable. This report presents the findings of field research which examines litigation processes in family courts in order to identify strengths and weaknesses in meeting the legal needs of female disputants and strengthening their rights. It finds that the new court system's role in strengthening women's access to a fair legal process and to affordable, swift justice is hampered by legislative gaps, procedural shortcomings, lack of effective implementation mechanisms, and gendered politics in the legal process. For example, some of the female interviewees reported that some of specialists they worked with showed lack of interest in their problems; pressured them to reconcile with the husband; or articulated disapproving views about the female disputants' demand for khul.

Recommendations include:
- Introduce a new and comprehensive family law that promotes a model of marriage that is based on justice and equal partnership.
- Draft the new law through a participatory grass-root process of debate with different sectors of society (women's rights groups, other members of civil society, religious establishment and scholars, the media, the government, the general public)
- Strengthen the role(s) of mediation offices and court experts through: training in mediation skills and gender sensitivity; adequate and sufficient workplace resources.