Female Citizenship in the Middle East: Comparing family law reform in Morocco, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon

In: Middle East Law and Governance
Rania Maktabi Ostfold University College,

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This article explores the relationship between type of court system, parliamentary reform, and expanded female citizenship in four Arab states between 1990 and 2010. I argue that female citizens have acquired wider civil rights through parliament in relatively homogenous states with unitary court systems than in multireligious states with dual court systems. In Egypt and Morocco, unitary courts curbed clerical judicial authority over family law and weakened the resilience of conservative religious authorities. In these states, renewed pressures for reform after 1990 yielded strengthened female civil rights. In Syria and Lebanon, dual courts safeguard the judicial autonomy of clerics and enable them to resist pressures for family law reform more forcefully. In these states, little changed because the interests of political and religious authorities converge in ways that bolster group-based citizenship and constrain the civil rights of female citizens.

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