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Monday, 17 January, 2000, 14:53 GMT
Egypt debates better deal for women




By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

The Egyptian parliament is debating reforms of the country's family law that would make it easier for women to divorce, and to travel abroad without their husbands' permission.

At the moment, a man can divorce his wife on the spot, while a woman must prove she has been ill-treated. But the proposed changes have proved extremely controversial.

If the law passes, a woman will now be able to go to court if her husband refuses to let her travel abroad.

Dowry

For the first time, she will also be able to file for divorce on grounds of incompatibility, as long as she gives up the right to alimony payments and returns her dowry.

Those backing the changes say they are rooted in Islam. The Prophet Mohammed is said to have told a woman she could leave her husband even though he had done her no harm as long as she returned a garden he had given her.

Some women have complained that the changes do not go far enough.

They say they will mainly benefit wealthy women who can afford to pay back the dowry and forgo alimony.

'Un-Islamic' proposals

But many men are outraged. Although the proposed law has been approved by Egypt's highest religious authorities, it is being widely viewed by men as un-Islamic and as a recipe for the disintegration of the family.

One MP said he thought it would lead to more murders of women because, he said, men would not accept having their wives walk out on them.

Although all but a handful of Egypt's parliamentarians are men, the law is expected to pass.

But many MPs are adamantly opposed to the changes, and the debate will be fierce.

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See also:
03 Sep 99 |  Middle East
Zippergate inspires Egyptian sex comedy
15 Jul 99 |  Africa
Egyptian woman locked up by father
31 May 99 |  Middle East
Egyptian wives turning violent
05 Apr 99 |  Middle East
Egypt gets tough on rapists

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