Egyptian Family Courts: A Pathway of Women's Empowerment?

In: Hawwa
Mulki Al-Sharmani American University in Cairo;, Email:

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A significant new law was passed by Egyptian legislators in 2004 introducing family courts to arbitrate family conflict in an effort to promote non-adversarial legal mechanisms. The aim of this paper is to examine how this new legal system is working for female plaintiffs. Through an analysis of court practices in a number of divorce and maintenance cases, this essay will make two central arguments: First, I will argue that the benefits family courts are currently providing to female plaintiffs are limited due to a number of gaps and shortcomings in the legislation, mechanisms of implementation, resources, and the capacity and the training of court personnel. In addition, the legal process in the new courts as well as the substantive family laws that are being implemented continue to reflect gender inequality and biases against women. Secondly, I will argue that the shortcomings of the new court system also result from the approach of addressing gender inequalities through the piecemeal approach of fragmented procedural reforms as well as the contradictions arising from the divergent agendas of the alliances built between different reform actors (e.g. women's rights organizations, government bodies, and legal institution).

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