Egypts profoundly unequal divorce system undermines the ability of many women, including those in violent relationships, from ever attempting to seek a divorce and leaves others languishing in legal limbo for years. This system is rooted in highly discriminatory views about women and their ability to make the decision to terminate their marriages on their own.
As illustrated in this report, the fact that women seeking divorce confront such a biased legal system is particularly regrettable given that women resort to the courts only when they have exhausted all other options. The unfortunate consequences of these biased views and the parallel and unequal divorce system they have fostered is that choosing divorce for many women in Egypt is tantamount to choosing years of legal uncertainty followed by destitution.
The Egyptian government should adopt legislative, judicial, and administrative reforms to guarantee equal access to divorce for Egyptian women. Government officials urgently need to turn their attention to the countless ways that a womans right to divorce is obstructed by discriminatory laws and procedures causing unnecessary hardship for Egyptian women. Regardless of whether it is rooted in religious or secular law, a divorce process should be established in Egypt based on equality in line with its international obligations.
By adopting legislative, judicial, and administrative reforms aimed at securing equal access to divorce for Egyptian women, women will be empowered to assert control over their lives and bodies. These legal reforms, and the empowerment they would inspire, will begin to erode male dominance in the home and the impunity men currently enjoy in their relationships with women. While sexism fostered by religious and cultural norms may not be eradicated quickly, the provision of equal access to divorce would represent a significant legal reform that could serve as a catalyst for a broader societal endorsement of womens rights.