Some see the new amendments as a victory for women, while others believe that they carry an implicit accusation of Sharia law of wronging women
A bill regulating polygamy has caused public and religious controversy in Egypt. The project was submitted by the government to the House of Representatives, and it is expected that the House Legislative Committee will discuss it in the coming days.
The controversy centered on two articles specifically, the first stipulating that the husband acknowledges in the marriage document his marital status, and if he is married, he must indicate in the acknowledgment the name of the wife or wives who are in his infancy and their place of residence, and notify them of the new marriage.
The second is to impose a penalty on the husband who marries for the second time without notifying the first wife, with imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year and a fine, and punishing the authorized official in the event of his failure to notify the first wife by a registered letter attached to the acknowledgment of receipt.
Among those who see these amendments as a victory for women, and those who describe them as implicitly accusing the Sharia of oppressing women, what are the circumstances of this amendment? And what does the current law stipulate in the event of remarriage without notifying the first wife?
Al-Azhar settles the issue
Against the background of the popular debate over the proposed amendments, the Religious Committee of the House of Representatives announced that the new draft Personal Status Law was sent to Al-Azhar to take its opinion on all the new amendments, given that all the articles of the draft were derived from Islamic jurisprudence, the Qur’an and the Sunnah, according to Egyptian newspapers.
The referral decision coincided with the attack of religious figures on the new project and the punishment imposed on the husband.
Ahmed Karima, professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, described the husband’s punishment, whether by a fine or imprisonment, if he did not inform his first wife of his marriage, in violation of Islamic law altogether.
He explained that “a Muslim has the right to marry more than one wife, and that there is nothing in Sharia law that obliges a man to inform his wife of his marriage to another.”
According to Egyptian websites, Ahmed Karima indicated that he would be the first to challenge the law in the Egyptian judiciary, adding, “We will not agree to secularize what concerns the Muslim family, as if you accuse the legislation of oppressing women, and this threatens the Islamic faith.”
An old penalty and divorce for damages
The new draft, which gives the wife the right to seek divorce due to harm in the event her husband marries another woman without informing her, and at the same time grants the new wife, too, the request for divorce as long as the husband does not inform her of his first marriage, is not a completely new matter.
The Egyptian law requires the husband to inform his wife of his marriage to another, as the text of the current law, according to Article 11 bis of Law 25 of 1929 amended by Law 100 of 1985, published on the website of the Center for Supporting Democratic Transition and Human Rights. The marriage document with his marital status. If he is married, he must indicate in the acknowledgment the name of the wife or wives who are in his infallibility and their place of residence, and the notary must notify them of the new marriage by a letter attached with acknowledgment of receipt.
It is also permissible for the wife to whom her husband has married to ask for a divorce from him if he suffers material or moral harm that makes it impossible for him to last for ten times, even if she did not stipulate in the contract that he should not marry her, and if the judge is unable to reconcile between them, he will divorce him with a permanent shot.
Husband imprisonment and fine
The new draft law imposes a penalty on a husband who marries for the second time without informing the first wife, with imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year and a fine starting from 20 thousand pounds and up to 50 thousand Egyptian pounds (1270-3180 US dollars), however, the current law also imposes a penalty On the husband, but it is less stressful, and is associated with hiding his marital status and incorrect data.
Where Article 23 bis stipulates that the husband may be imprisoned for a period not exceeding 6 months and a fine not exceeding 200 pounds (12.74 US dollars) or one of these two penalties, if the notary gives incorrect data about his marital status, his place of residence, or the place of residence of his wives as stipulated in Article 11 bis.
The notary is also punished for a period not exceeding a month and a fine not exceeding 50 pounds (3.2 US dollars) if he breaches any of the obligations imposed on him by law.
Conflicting estimates regarding the size of polygamy cases within the Egyptian society were resolved by a report of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics during 2019, indicating the existence of 44,870 marriage contracts for a man who has more than one wife.
However, the number is not reflecting the reality correctly, as some husbands go to circumvent the law by paying an amount to the marriage officer so that he informs the wife of the wrong address or conceals his wife’s mention in the marriage document fundamentally, or sometimes, he performs the contract in a customary manner so as not to The number of his marriages is proven in the Civil Status Authority.
This prompted a number of women’s rights organizations to introduce amendments to the Personal Status Law during the past years to put controls on polygamy.
Among the draft law was what was submitted by the Egyptian Women’s Cases Institution to the People’s Assembly in 2017, as the amendment stipulated at the time, according to the Egyptian Al-Ahram Gate, that the husband must submit a request to the court to attach to his legal marital papers in order for the wife to be formally notified and ask about her consent or not, and in case she refuses She is divorced in the same session, and in the event that she agrees to continue her marriage, the court will oblige the husband to his financial responsibilities towards his family, which guarantees justice between the two wives.
The amendments to the law did not deny, over the years, the legitimate right of the man to marry more than one woman, but through the proposed controls, they tried to give the first wife an opportunity to choose the continuity of marital life or end it and request a divorce due to harm, in a manner that does not violate the Sharia or the law.