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Law Makes Egyption Divorce Easier

January 29, 2000

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ A 32-year-old housewife became the first woman to file for divorce under a new law that makes it easier for Egyptian women to leave their husbands.

Wafa Mosaad Gabr, who had been trying to end her marriage for three years, filed for divorce because she simply didn’t want to live with her husband, El-Sayyed Mohammed Ibrahim, a 38-year old farmer, the woman’s lawyer said. The lawyer, Mostafa Eid, did not elaborate.

The law, which had faced strong opposition in male-dominated and overwhelmingly Muslim Egypt, was passed by the country’s People’s Assembly Wednesday night and approved by President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday.

The new legislation makes it easier for women to obtain a divorce, though the process remains more difficult for women than it is for men. Islamic law gives men the right to divorce their wives anytime and without the approval of a court or any other authority.

Under the old law, women had to prove that physical or psychological harm was caused by husbands to obtain a divorce.

Now, women must only declare before a court that they want a divorce. Judges will give the couple three months to try and reconcile and six months if they have children. An immediate divorce will be granted at the end of the trial period if they don’t change their minds.

Under the new law, women who divorce their husbands must return their dowries and relinquish all financial claims, including alimony.

Gabr, who got married in 1986, had previously asked her husband to divorce her, Eid said.

If Gabr gets her divorce, she will return the equivalent of $30, which her husband paid as a dowry. But for her three children, she would still get child support payments, which are not affected under the new law.

The first hearing in the case is set for March 14.

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