63% of Egyptians support proposed bill to document verbal divorce: Baseera

At least 63 percent of Egyptians are against the current practice of undocumented verbal divorce, known as "triple talaq", while only 16 percent support it and 21 percent are undecided, according to a poll conducted by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Baseera).

Baseera issued a number of polls about the new proposals to change various personal status laws, specifically those about verbal divorce without documentation and the paternal custody of children.

In Febraury, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called on al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb to approve the issuance of a new law tightening divorce procedures for Muslims — including the annulment of verbal divorce. Egyptian law currently grants a Muslim husband the right to divorce his wife in her absence and without her knowledge. He may initiate and conclude all the divorce procedures himself, only letting her know at the final stage.

The president suggested that divorce should only be legal if done in the presence of a maazoun, a cleric authorised by the government to administer marriage and divorce.

However, after few weeks, a group of Islamic scholars, headed by al-Tayyeb, unanimously agreed that verbal divorce in Islam is valid and divorce comes into effect once the husband verbally divorces his wife, without the need to document it or have witnesses to the divorce.

Baseera's poll showed that women are slightly more opposed to undocumented verbal divorce with 67 percent against it, compared to 60 percent of men. Surprisingly, respondents with lower-level education are the biggest supporters of the proposed bill, as 63 percent of these respondents were against undocumented verbal divorce, compared to 57 percent of respondents with a higher educational level.

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Only 12 percent of respondents with a lower educational level support undocumented verbal divorce, compared to 30 percent among those with a higher education background.

The poll showed that a third of the Egyptians surveyed are following up the arguments for and against the new proposal, 59 percent are people with higher educational levels compared to 26 percent with less than intermediate education.

In December 2016, Baseera conducted a poll about a bill submitted to the Parliament on child custody agreements. This bill would grant full custody to the father if the mother remarried after their divorce.

The poll showed that only 17 percent of Egyptians have heard about this bill, and 24 percent of these respondents were older than 50 compared to young people who made up 12 percent. From an educational angel, only 13 percent of those with a lower education background have heard about the bill, compared to 30 percent of respondents who had a higher educational level.

After reading a summary of the proposed bill to the respondents, 35 percent of Egyptians said they agree with this proposal, while 56 percent rejected it and 9 percent could not decide.

Men showed the most support for the bill at 46 percent, compared to 24 percent of women. Subsequently, 68 percent of women rejected the bill compared to 44 percent of men polled.

Education played a significant role in determining people's opinion, as 38 percent of supporters for the bill had a lower-level education compared to 29 percent of respondents with a higher education background.

Supporters of the bill were asked the reasons for their approval: 31 percent said it is better for a father to raise his children than a stepfather; another 31 percent said a strange man (the stepfather) should not raise the biological father's girls; while 10 percent said the father should take responsibility for raising his children, and 8 percent said the father has better parenting skills than the mother.

For those opposing the bill, 35 percent believe the mother will take care of and raise the children better than the father; 23 percent said a mother's presence is better than a stepmother; 12 percent said the mother should have the priority for caring for her children.

While 9 percent said children depend on their mother more than their father. A final 7 percent had a completely different point of view, saying it is better for the grandmother to raise the children in such a case.

The polls were conducted using landline phones and mobile phones. The most recent poll took a probability sample of 1509 citizens aged 18 and above in February 2017.

The December poll included 1515 citizens in the same age group covering all Egyptian cities. The interviews were conducted from 20 to 22 February and 12 to 15 December. The response rate in the two polls was about 42 percent and the margin of error in the results was less than 3 percent.



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