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Saturday, 29 January, 2000, 23:05 GMT
First Egyptian woman files for divorce

Woman and children on road Life is hard for many Egyptian women


An Egyptian mother of two has become the first woman to file for divorce since parliament approved a new law on Wednesday allowing women to divorce their husbands for incompatibility.

Waffa Mossaad Gabr, 32, from the northern area of Tanta, said in her petition to the family court that she had no particular complaint against her husband but "hated living with him".

Her husband had previously refused to give her a divorce.

Mrs Gabr said she was ready to give up all her financial rights, as required under the legislation, in order to divorce the man she married in 1986.

The new law, approved by President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday, will only take effect in a month's time, and Mrs Gabr's court hearing is set for 14 March.



Arbitrators

Under the legislation, the court where the wife applies for a divorce must appoint two arbitrators from the spouses' families.

If they confirm the couple's incompatibility, the wife then tells the court she hates her husband and fears she cannot fulfill her conjugal duties "as laid down by God".



Judges will give the couple three months to try to effect a reconciliation 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.


Cairo mosque Islamic scholars have no disagreement with the law
Under the new law, women who divorce their husbands must return their dowries and relinquish all financial claims, including alimony.

When Mrs Gabr gets her divorce she will have to return the 101 Egyptian pounds ($30) she got as dowry from her husband.

But she would still get child support payments for her children.

The legislation replaces an old law that allows a woman to divorce only in specific cases such as mistreatment by her husband, and then only if she can provide proof.

By contrast, a man can divorce his wife simply by saying "I divorce you" three times.

"Congratulations"

Parliament approved the bill after deleting a controversial article that would have allowed women to travel abroad despite their husbands' opposition.

The new law was described by hardline Muslim clergymen as a threat to the stability of society, but was hailed by women groups who viewed it as a restoration of their human rights.

"Congratulations to women and to Egypt," said Hoda Badran, president of the Alliance of Arab Women.

The new law, she says, will make men "respect the marital relationship and know that a woman is not a slave".



Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the world's premier seat of Sunni Islam learning, said there was no theological flaw in the new legislation.

"The law has been studied by al-Azhar committee of scholars. It doesn't carry anything that is contradictory to Islam," he said.

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See also:
27 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Small victory for Egyptian women
16 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Egypt debates better deal for women
31 May 99 |  Middle East
Egyptian wives turning violent

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