Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Egypt: Advances in Women's Rights

A new family court system recently set up across Egypt will lead to a huge improvement in women's legal rights, advocates say.
A total of 224 courts with about 1,200 judges are being set up to help solve the approximately million cases each year focusing on divorce, alimony, child custody and paternity.

The family courts will replace the century-old institution of personal status courts and their creation marks a significant breakthrough for women, whose rights suffered a blow in 1985 when the government reversed some of their earlier gains.
Under the old system, a divorce could be decided by a court but then faced a possible challenge in an appeals court and then a cassation court. Sometimes a divorce was still denied several years after the initial ruling. Such lengthy and often opaque procedures could lead to situations where women who remarried several years after the first ruling found themselves "legally wed" to two men at the same time, the system's critics argued.

Proponents of the new system said divorce cases will now be examined by the same court and judge instead of being scattered into separate cases in multiple courts--a situation that subjected women to unnecessary stress and frustration. Combining courtroom facilities with psychological support, the family courts will attempt to bring about reconciliation between the spouses or lay out a separation deal without resorting to a lawsuit.

Source: Jordan Times, 30.10.04. Website: www.jordantimes.com