It would not be just to demand that a man think like a woman or even to understand her feelings but logically he should be able to push aside his sexual, intellectual and ideological prejudices if his job is to represent the interest of all Egyptians.
Member of Parliament Atef Makhalif completely sidelined these considerations when he presented a draft amendment to the personal status law which regulates family law in Egypt.
The MP’s amendment recommends “All conditions previously accepted by the law for Khul’ (a divorce initiated by a woman) should be abolished and limited to one condition: an impotent partner.” This is among four amendments that he has proposed to the current law.
Makhalif justified his proposal “Due to the high prevalence of divorce in society and that 83% of divorces are a result of Khul’ and “that prompted him to present this proposal”. The proposal angered many Egyptian women as they consider it "unfair and biased against them."
Noha Hajji, 29, who filed a Khul’ case last month, sees the MP's proposal as "ridiculous" and she does not see it as alarming, she says: “I am entirely sure that it will be rejected and not discussed in parliament because it makes no sense."
But, she told Raseef22 she does not deny that she feels “annoyed by the obliviousness of Members of Parliament to our suffering, does the man who has presented this amendment realize how much a woman endures before she decides to seek a Khul’ and to give up her rights in order to end her marriage?”
Amani Abdel Baqi a 21-year-old divorcee told Raseef22 “the proposal reveals how much of a misogynist its advocate is” because in her opinion “A woman’s last concern is the sexual relationship when she considers khul’.
Nessma al-Safi, 36, told Raseef22 that such proposals are “frightening” not only in terms of restricting the right to divorce or khul ', but also for child custody and care.
In his project, Makhalif also proposes to reduce the age of mandatory maternal custody to 9 years instead of the current 15 with a “mandatory” transfer of custody to the father and to end the current visitation system and replacing it with 24 hours of hosting the child per week with the possibility of extension during holidays and festive occasions.
The MP is also calling for changing the order of custody so the widowed father becomes the second custodian after the death of the mother and the natural father becoming fourth in line after the mother, the mother’s mother and the father’s mother.
Illegal and Unconstitutional
The Egyptian lawyer Ali Sabri told Raseef22 that what the MP proposes "is neither constitutional nor human." adding that “Khul’ has a basis in Sharia, a man might not be impotent but the woman cannot endure living with him, so she gives up her rights and liberates herself by returning the dowry in order to terminate the marriage”
"As for the condition mentioned by the MP in his proposal regarding the sexual impotence of the partner, this falls under the legal category “divorce for cause' and thus the divorcee retains her full rights because the “damage” is caused by the man and the weakness cannot be remedied”.
By 2020, the Family Law in Egypt will be 100 years old. Human rights and feminist organizations believe that the law is no longer appropriate or enforceable at the present time, especially as it was legislated in social and economic circumstances that are completely different from current ones.
“Due to the high prevalence of divorce in Egyptian society and that 83% of divorces are a result of Khul’ - a divorce initiated by a woman - MP Makhalif proposes to only allow Khul’ in case of a man’s weak sexual performance.
Sabri describes the proposal as unfair, diminishing the rights of women rather than compensating them for the harm done to them in such a marriage. Interestingly, the MP who submitted the proposal is a member of the Egyptian Human Rights Committee in parliament.
Sabri adds “Putting aside sexual impotence, if a woman can no longer be in a marriage due to abuse or violence or myriad other reasons and wants to leave, how can we deny her that right - why would we take it away?”
Makhalif claims that the aim of his proposal is to "fix a society that is suffering because of the current law and is witnessing an increase in divorce rates." Sabri responded to this with: "The MP should have put together an integrated proposal to treat the flaws in the current law if he really is so concerned in preserving Egyptian families, so why didn’t he include a clause that deals with the crisis of child support? stressing that "the MP is a representative of the people and may not manipulate legislation in order to favour a social group or sex at the expense of another ...and legislation should not be produced to create a splash in the media” and he considers that “the law in this form has the intention of winning the support of men.”
Disastrous, Biased and Patriarchal
Egyptian lawyer and human rights activist and president of the Cairo Association for Development and Law, Intisar Al-Said believes that "what the MP put forward is illegal, unconstitutional and inhuman not to mention biased to males and is notably patriarchal”,
"While we are in dire need of a just and fair personal status law for women, this MP comes along with a bill that denies Egyptian women their rights and reduces them to sex objects," Al-Said told Raseef22.
"It is a humiliating and unacceptable proposition, depicting marriage as a carnal transaction and turns women into tools for sexual pleasure," she said. By 2020, the Family Law in Egypt will be 100 years old. Al-Said and many human rights and feminist organizations believe that the law is no longer appropriate or enforceable at the present time, especially as it was legislated in social and economic circumstances that are completely different from current ones.
She adds: "All Muslim countries allow khul’ without this strange & bewildering condition considering it sufficient that there be hatred or unpleasantness between the two parties”
She pointed out that there is more than one proposal currently, including two proposals from the Wafd Party and from MP Abla Hawari, under discussion in the Legislative Committee of Parliament. However, she believes that to reach a just law for women, families and children "needs a complete legislative revolution."
Al-Sa'id proposes that the current law be amended to raise the age of maternal custody for both sexes to 18, abolish the right of obedience, restrict the clauses pertaining to polygamy and to limit the possibility of polygamy making it compulsory to have the consent of the wife and the judge after presenting an objective reason for a second marriage and provided that the husband proves his financial ability to support more than one wife. Also, to grant the party which does not have custody whether the mother or the father the right to host the child weekly for a day and to extend that to a week during Midterm holidays and to a month at the end of school year holidays.
Al-Sa’id pointed out that these proposals may not satisfy both parties, but are in the interest of the family and all parties, calling on MPs to "First study any draft law (they wish to propose) fully and to put aside gender bias, and to refer to experts and specialists and organizations concerned and perhaps to community dialogue before they submit their draft laws for discussion."
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