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Human Rights Watch calls on the Egyptian government to ensure
equality in the substantive and procedural laws and policies governing divorce
initiated by men and women. In order to accomplish this goal, Egypt should ultimately establish a new divorce process that brings equal legal and
judicial scrutiny to bear on decisions made by any Egyptian to end their
marriage. While Human Rights Watch recognizes that the complete overhaul of the
current divorce system will take time, it is clearly a necessary step to ensure
full equality in matters relating to divorce. The following actions by the
Egyptian government and its relevant ministries represent essential first steps
toward this goal:
the Egyptian Parliament
- Withdraw Egypts reservations to articles 2 and 16 of the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
(CEDAW), and its general reservation to the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). These
reservations undermine the intent and purpose of these conventions and seek
to absolve Egypt of its obligation to end discrimination against women, particularly in connection with matters
relating to marriage and family relations.
- Enact a specific set of laws explicitly criminalizing all
forms of domestic and familial violence.
- Repeal in full Section 1 of
the Alimony Law, No. 25 of 1920, which conditions a womens receipt of
alimony on her obedience.
- Repeal legal provisions
that allow judges discretion in determining the degree of harm sufficient
for granting a fault-based divorce based on a womens socio-economic
- Apply section 60 of the
Criminal Code, which provides for the elimination of punitive damages to
acts committed in good faith, in a manner that is gender-neutral. This
law should not be applied in cases involving domestic violence.
- Require Mazunswho perform marriages to inform all
parties of their right to negotiate conditions for inclusion in marriage
contracts, and ensure that Mazuns who fail to provide this information are investigated and penalized in a timely, effective,
and appropriate manner. Additionally, create a legal remedy whereby
spouses who were not informed of this right have a retroactive opportunity
to demand such conditions in order for a marriage contract to remain
- Add the equal right to divorce (isma)
as a default provision within standard marriage contracts.
- Abolish the mandatory mediation program for both
fault-based divorce and khula(no-fault) divorce proceedings.
- Adopt policies and procedures for monitoring the work of
bailiffs tasked with delivering notices for child support or alimony to
ensure that bribes are not taken. Also, promptly and effectively penalize
those bailiffs found to have taken bribes.
- Prohibit the Supreme Council of Judges from excluding
women from the office of the criminal prosecutor and the judicial bench.
- Require all prosecutors serving as court advisers in
divorce proceedings to undertake training aimed at eliminating gender bias
in their handling of cases.
and disseminate, in a timely and transparent manner, comprehensive
national statistics on domestic violence, detailing the nature and degree
of violence, rates of prosecution and conviction, and the average
sentences and penalties that have been levied and sentenced.
- Ensure that destitute women awaiting divorce qualify
without delay for social assistance.
- Establish quality shelters or other safe spaces for
battered women that function as refuges without compromising womens
privacy, personal autonomy, and freedom of movement. Ensure that such
shelters provide mediation only if a woman requests it.
- Ensure that shelter staff do not have the discretion to
turn away women brought in by the police or based upon any other arbitrary
or subjective criteria.
- End the practice of having shelter staff send notice of
womens whereabouts to abusive spouses.
- Ensure that shelter staff do not seek to effect
reconciliation without a womans consent.
- Create telephone hotlines for victims of domestic violence
in all of Egypts governorates. These hotlines should be widely
publicized, with a sufficient advertising budget, and be operated by
well-trained staff who can offer basic counseling and provide non-judgmental
referrals to specialized service providers and shelters.
- Cooperate with nongovernmental womens and human rights
organizations to advertise anti-domestic violence public policies, widely
disseminate information on how victims of domestic violence can seek legal
redress, and publicize the existence of services for victims of domestic
the Donor Community
Bilateral donors, including the United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Union should:
- Encourage Egypt to adopt the recommendations outlined
above. Additionally, donors should raise the Egyptian governments failure
to address womens unequal access to divorce at high-level meetings and
through their embassies in Egypt.
- Encourage Egypt to repeal discriminatory provisions in its
family and penal laws, particularly those that have helped create and
perpetuate unequal and parallel systems of divorce for men and women.
- Support programs that seek to review and reform existing
family laws to ensure that they are consistent with Egypts obligations under CEDAW and other international human rights instruments, do not
discriminate on the basis of sex or gender, and afford women equality of
access to divorce.
- Provide support for programs providing basic services for
divorced women and victims of domestic violence. These services should
include womens shelters, medical care, counseling, literacy classes,
job/skills training, and legal aid.
- Urge the Egyptian government to foster the participation
of women in all levels of civil society, including the judiciary and the
- Assist the Egyptian government toward the better training
of police officers, public prosecutors (serving as advisers to courts in
divorce proceedings), doctors, and judges in connection with eliminating
gender bias in handling divorce proceedings and cases of violence against
- Work with the government of Egypt to ensure that
development policies and programs are designed and implemented in a manner
that promotes womens equal rights in the family. Also, ensure that
concrete steps are taken to eliminate discriminatory laws and customary
practices that undermine development efforts.
- Increase assistance to civil society organizations working
to reform discriminatory provisions in Egypts personal status laws,
including those that obstruct womens rights to equality in divorce.
- Include domestic violence education as a part of the
training activities for all income-generation programs targeted at women,
in order to inform program participants about the currently available
forms of relief from and redress for domestic abuse. Such training should
include basic information about the rights of women to seek termination of
marriages tainted by abuse or maltreatment.
- Provide support for broad-based public campaigns aimed at
fighting sexist attitudes and misogynistic cultural norms that breed
domestic violence and discrimination against women.