Between March and May 2022, members of the Egyptian Council of Representatives (parliament) proposed new draft laws protecting the rights of women by regulating marriage, polygamy, and divorce.
Acting to stem a rise in the divorce rate in Egypt — which reportedly reached 222,000 in 2020 — and an “abnormal” increase in family crimes and spousal abuse, members of the parliament submitted a draft law on March 8, 2022, that would require couples who intend to marry to undergo psychological testing in an attempt to measure how the two parties would deal with life pressures after marriage and handle marital-life-related conflicts, and to complete a course of treatment if necessary.
Additionally, before concluding the marriage contract, couples would be required to undergo a complete medical examination aimed at the early detection of genetic, immune, and infectious diseases and the abuse of drugs, which can lead to spousal violence. The examination would include checking their blood types, DNA tests for hereditary diseases, and HIV and hepatitis C blood tests.
On April 14, 2022, Nashwa al-Deeb, a member of the Egyptian Council of Representatives, submitted a draft law that would impose a number of requirements on men who wish to marry second, third, and fourth wives.
The draft law would require the husband to submit a request to a family court judge to notify his wife or wives of his desire to marry another woman. The law would also obligate the husband to inform the woman to be married that he already has one or more wives.
On May 9, 2022, Egyptian media outlets published a proposed draft law regulating divorce. Under the proposed law, it would be permissible for a wife whose husband married another woman without notifying her to ask the court for a divorce. However, the wife’s right to request a divorce for this reason would be forfeited one year after the date she learned of her husband’s marriage to another woman.
The bill would also require a husband who divorced his wife in absentia to notarize his divorce certificate with a notary public. To notarize the divorce certificate, the husband would have to provide the following information with his application to the notary: the wife’s address, profession, and national ID number; the number of children, their ages, and academic years; and the spouses’ financial disclosure statement.
In addition, the draft law would address the problems created by the divorce of “a noncustodial woman who does not have housing, a source of livelihood or subsistence” or of “a wife after 10 long years [of marriage,] … leaving her without housing, living or shelter.” The bill would require the Ministry of Social Affairs to designate 5% of social housing to women who are divorced and have no place to live.
Finally, the draft law would require husbands who divorce their wives without justification to pay their divorced wives an extra amount of alimony in addition to monthly alimony. The alimony amount would be equivalent to two years of the amount of monthly alimony or an amount not less than 1,500 Egyptian pounds (about US$82).
Reactions to the Draft Marriage Law
According to sociologists, the draft marriage law could help to ameliorate the dire situation of spousal violence, with Professor Samia Khedr of Ain Shams University stating that “[t]he psychological and medical examination will play a major role in limiting these crimes in the future” and “protect future generations and reduce family disintegration.” At the same time, she feels that the draft bill will not be sufficient in solving these problems and that the government must produce TV shows that “develop authentic Egyptian values, customs and traditions instead of presenting works on bullying, violence and bloody scenes” and must “monitor social media and ads to save young people from content promoting sexuality and drugs.”Attributing divorce to “many genetic or psychological problems” and mental illness, Dr. Gamal Ferwiz, consultant psychiatrist at the Military Medical Academy, stated that “[t]he draft law is very important in principle,” but if it is to “ensure healthy marriages,” what is most important is applying and monitoring it well “to avoid any manipulation” and “to guarantee the credibility of the couple’s information about their health.”