Parliamentarian Shokry al Gendy, from the Religious Affairs Committee, has suggested amending Egypt’s personal status law to grant women the right to alimony from state banks after they file for divorce, a proposal that stirred debate on whether Egypt’s budget could survive such a budget change.
Divorce procedures are usually lengthy, often lasting for years. Under Gendy’s proposal, a family court would direct a state-owned bank to issue a monthly allowance to women who file for divorce. The banks would be responsible for collecting alimony with interest from husbands as soon as the final ruling ended.
“It’s unfair how long women have to wait in order to be granted her right. Women demanding alimony can wait up to more than two years without a stable source of income to provide for her family,” Gendy said.
“The legal complications, the lawyers’ fees, the hassle to run after her husband are all difficulties a woman might face to be granted alimony, it is her right after all, ” he added.
The proposed amendment would allow women to obtain a decision from the judge examining the divorce case during the first litigation hearing, and with the court’s approval, women would receive monthly payments of EGP 1,000 until the legal procedures end.
When the final hearing is out, the bank would then be able to collect the alimony it provided with interest from the husband, the proposal suggested.
Gendy’s proposal is stirring controversy, however, with many claiming that the state budget cannot support such payments.
“The humanitarian aspect of this draft proposal is a good one, but Egypt is trying now to reduce its budget deficit. Such expenses would burden the government even more in case the banks failed to collect the alimony from the husbands, there are no guarantees,” Ibrahim Abdel Nazeir, a member of the Budget Committee, said.
“Some husbands use tricks like asking their parents to file a lawsuit against them seeking financial support for the parents in order to reduce the alimony sum. In this case the state would be bound to cover the difference, which is unbearable,” he said.
The total number of divorces in 2015 reached 199,867 in comparison to 180,244 in 2014, the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) said in its annual report on marriages and divorces.
Undersecretary of the Economic Committee Amr al-Gohary said that burdening the bank system with legal family disputes could turn out to be “a huge threat to the economy.”
Obliging banks to pay EGP 1000 as a minimum monthly alimony is a prior interference in judicial decisions. Judges might rule for less than this amount, depending on the husband’s limited resources,” Gohary said.
He suggested that to speed up litigation procedures and assess a husband’s income, a condition should be added to the marriage contract forcing a husband who does not pay alimony to pay a monthly amount- agreed upon between the two families- according to the income the husband disclosed before the marriage.
“This amount would increase yearly by 10 percent, as of the marriage date. As per the new condition in the old contract, the wife would get an urgent judicial decision allowing her to collect the alimony.”
Somaya Karam, a 42 year old woman, has been going to Egyptian courts for three years to be granted alimony from her husband who she hasn’t been able to locate.
When told about Gendy’s draft proposal, she viewed it as a safety net for her and her children.
“I wish this was the case for me, but it’s too late. After all, we’ve been through many problems, (my husband) decided to leave the house. He left me behind with our two children,” Karam said.
She hasn’t been able to locate his whereabouts since he disappeared. Karam filed for alimony, but the case has been stalled for almost two years.
The proceedings of alimony start with cases going through the Court of First Instance and then the Court of Appeal before a writ of execution is issued. The husband must be notified of the judgment three times.