CAIRO: A network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Egypt, headed by the Egyptian Association for Community Participation and Enhancement (EACPE), are currently working on changing the personal status law, to correspond to the needs of today’s society.
“We are working on amending the personal status law in Egypt, specifically the articles pertaining to child custody, divorce and marriage, said Magdy Abdel Hamid, chairman of EACPE.
“We hold discussions on a regular basis in which we invite people from all walks of life, including religious figures, members of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood and ministry officials, so we could have well-rounded debates on how the law should change, he explained.
The most controversial of the issues discussed was allowing civil marriages in Egypt, which was brought up by Coptic thinker Kamal Zakher. He said that marriage is a social ritual and the only religious aspect of it is the blessing the couple gets from the church or mosque.
“If we have civil marriages then this will allow Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, said Zakher.
Although some of the attendees strongly disagreed with Zakher, the majority supported his proposal. “This was Zakher’s personal opinion and we welcome all different opinions; this is our objective from holding these discussions, said Abdel Hamid.
The discussions also tackled the new hospitality verdict, which was first implemented earlier this month, on March 6. The hospitality verdict allows the non-custodian parent to take their child for as long as an entire weekend, rather than for a supervised few hours in a public place.
One main concern the members of the panel discussed was the possibility of not returning the child back on schedule.
They suggested that the law should lay down a condition preventing the non-custodian parent from traveling outside the country with the child. The law would also criminalize failing to return the child on time, making it punishable by imprisonment.
It also stipulates that a parent who doesn’t pay child support cannot be granted hospitality rights.
The NGOs also proposed amending the article that deprives mothers who remarry from custody rights for the negative psychological effects on the children, who might feel unwelcomed in the mother’s new home.
The NGOs also agreed that the father needs to move up in the hierarchy of who has the priority in getting the child, after the mother, the grandmother and maternal aunts.
According to a press statement by EACPE, NGOs, in cooperation with the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, have to raise awareness of the legal conditions of marriage so that both parties would sign the contract fully aware of their legal rights.
They also agreed that the “kholoa law – where a wife has the right to initiate divorce procedures – should be amended to be fairer to the wife, giving her all her rights especially in the dowry and alimony, which she is obliged to weaver under the current terms.