This article investigates gender implications of judicial activism within the context of the 2011 revolution. Relying on analysis of a sample of judicial decisions in the field of divorce and child-rearing, I argue that individual judges used the family courts as a platform to articulate alternative legal discourses prior to the 2011 revolution. During the period between February 2011 and the military coup in July 2013 family legislation emerged as a controversial point. The period witnessed the mobilisation of small but vocal fathers’ rights groups that called for a revolution in Egyptian family law and formed strategic alliances with a handful of judges. The latter became members of a legislative committee formed under the presidency of Muhammad Mursi. I investigate the gender implications of their activism against a background where old and new actors and institutions competed over the right to interpret shari’a in an authoritative way
The appointment of women to the judiciary has been and remains a hotly disputed issue in Egypt. This chapter examines strategies developed by civil society organizations to promote women judges i an authoritarian context. An analysis of the circumstances surrounding the appointment of female judges shows that they had wider implications relating to lack of judicial independence and a culture of patronage. Finally, it attempts to shed some light on whether female judges in Egypt offer a different voice than their male colleagues with an emphasis on application of Muslim personal status law. Among other things, I argue that more women on the bench did not increase the Family Courts’ propensity to rule in favor of women.
This article aims to contribute to the growing scholarly literature on the implementation of shariʿa-based family law codes by describing and analyzing the gender implications of religiously inspired judicial activism in relation to judicial divorce through khulʿ. The article highlights two functions played by family court judges and other legal professionals. First, I argue that Egyptian family court judges and other court personnel, such as court experts and court-appointed arbiters from al-Azhar, enjoy considerable discretion in interpreting and implementing the personal status codes. Second, the article argues that legal professionals sometimes use the court and other legal spaces as a platform to articulate alternative visions of family and marriage, as well as to voice anxieties over a perceived increase in female-initiated divorce. The article situates these contradictory practices against the background of the contestation of early twenty-first-century reforms, which challenged male authority in the family, in particular the 2000 law of judicial khulʿ.