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You Might Go to Jail if You Get Married Behind Your Wife's Back

Among the many laws flying in and out of parliament lately, this one aims to tackle one of Egypt’s most unjust and problematic phenomena.

The topic of remarriage and polygamy has been a toxic undertone of Egyptian (and Middle-Eastern) society for a while now, but in a recent turn of events; a new draft law presented to parliament calls for holding husbands legally accountable for remarrying without notifying their first spouse for a period of six months. Of course, a topic such as this doesn’t fly without its fair share of debate.

Abla Haway, Member of Parliament, has voiced firm and rational statements regarding the law and the issue as a whole, “we are fighting polygamy at its core. Even if it is permitted by Islam, we should at least try and moderate it.” Hawary isn’t exactly asking for the moon and stars; one of a woman’s most basic of rights is to be at least notified of her spouse’s matrimonial intentions; “a wife has the right to know,” Hawary said. “To begin with, Maa'zouns [Islamic clerics], cannot remarry a husband unless he [informs] his first wife. However, now we are trying to fight the problem at its core.” In addition, Hawary also expanded on how the new law would serve the new wife as much as the first; “The fact that a man was not willing to tell his first wife he was going to get remarried makes me doubt that he will tell the second wife in the first place. So now [he] is violating the rights of two women.”

Unsurprisingly, numerous religious debates erupted following the announcement, with Moderator of the National Council of Egyptian Families, Ashraf Tammam, voicing his concerns; “I am not against women’s rights,” says Tammam, “A woman has the right to get an education, join the workforce, and get married to whomever she chooses.” Tammam further added, “my problem with this law is that it opposes the basis of Sharia (Islamic Law), as having several wives is a base rule in Islam.” Salafist responses to the argument iterated that a husband’s remarriage doesn’t have any significant harm on a woman, and in rebuttal, MP Maha Abu Bakr said “from a psychological point of view, if a woman finds out her husband is remarried, most of them would be destroyed.”

A case such as this is mired in religion, ethics and human psychology (not to mention basic human decency), so make of it what you will.


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