Azza Suleiman, director of the Center for Women’s Issues, said yesterday that there are currently five million postponed divorce cases in Egypt, in addition to 13 million cases under consideration by the personal status courts. She added that a divorce occurs every six minutes in the country, and that 250 thousand women resort to the courts annually to obtain divorce. Suleiman explained that litigation procedures under the current law cost Egyptians LE1.8 million per year.
Speaking at a workshop organized by the center in Aswan, Suleiman criticized personal status law in Egypt, saying many of its articles are outdated.
The director told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the workshop was organized to discuss proposed amendments to the current law, which fails to give a clear definition of marriage, and contains several articles that contradict the child law, particularly with respect to determining the legal marriage age for women. Child law in Egypt states that the legal age is 18 years, whereas personal status law declares it to be 16 years.
Suleiman also expressed her frustration with family law which does not recognize the role of dispute settlement offices, despite the fact that such offices are part of the family court system.
Suleiman pointed to the Coptic community’s need for a standardized law to regulate marriage and divorce. The Coptic Church, she notes, recently stated that the only justifications for divorce are death, adultery and a spouse’s change in religion. She added that the courts do not recognize such restrictions, and the church cannot issue legally binding decrees.
The director pointed to a recent study that shows the Church’s restrictions on divorce to be ineffective, noting the increase in the number of divorce and separation cases among Coptic Christians. She explained that this has caused a number of Coptic Christians to resort to Islamic law to obtain divorces and separations.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.