Independent MP proposes draft law to limit women’s right to divorce

An independent MP has joined the heated debate over women’s rights by suggesting a controversial draft law to limit the legal provisions for women to obtain divorce, reported the website of privately-owned Al-Shorouk newspaper on Saturday.

Mohamed al-Omda, deputy head of the People's Assembly’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, has submitted a draft law suggesting the cancelation of khul (a woman's right to get a divorce at a court if she pays her husband back the marriage settlement).

In the bill's explanatory memorandum, Omda said women's right to divorce through courts was granted to satisfy the National Council for Women (NCW), which was chaired by former first lady Suzanne Mubarak, allegedly to save women from persecution in eastern countries.

Islamic Sharia has been under siege since then, Omda claimed.

In 2000, after headed debate the parliament issued a law on the regulation of litigation procedures in personal status matters. The law applied Sharia, in which the woman can obtain a divorce if she returns the financial settlement her husband paid her when they married.

The law is popularly known as ‘khula law’ and it means that if a husband refuses to divorce his wife, the woman has the right to petition a judge in order to obtain to a divorce.

This law applies only to Muslim women, as Christian women have a separate personal status law.

For decades, Egyptian Muslim women suffered because divorce was not an easy right for them to access. Women’s activists say that even after the issuance of the khula law, administrative and legal obstacles still hinder women from getting divorce.

Omda claimed that the National Council for Women and other women's associations wanted to let women rid themselves of marital life according to their individualistic will without the slightest regard for family or society.

He said the law gave women the right to divorce in a court without the terms required by khul in Islam.

In recent months, the Muslim’s Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has launched an attack on laws regulating personal status in the country. They accuse the NCW, established under the Mubarak regime in 2000 and chaired by his wife Suzanne, of implementing western strategies to spoil the family and social life in Egypt.

Last week, a number of Islamist MPs criticized the khul law and the law regulating child custody, saying they contradict Sharia.

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