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Women held in limbo because of the laws of the courts

Egyptian women protesters against sexual harassment in Cairo, Egypt on 12 February 2013 [Ed Giles/Getty Images]
Egyptian women protest against sexual harassment in Cairo, Egypt on 12 February 2013 [Ed Giles/Getty Images]

The law should respect the rhythm of society, giving everyone equal rights. It should hold the hands of the oppressed and take them to safety, while leading the oppressors to the fate that they deserve. If the ethos of the law is not as Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, has expressed: "The weak among you is deemed strong by me, until I return to them that which is rightfully theirs, in sha Allah. And the strong among you is deemed weak by me until I take from them what is rightfully someone else's, in sha Allah," then I am certain that society will become shameless – a jungle of animals, where the lions eat the doves without fear of consequence.

There is great confusion in the hearts and minds of Arab citizens because of the contrast between what is written in law books and what is actually happening on the ground. What is written is exemplary, but what is implemented in reality lacks the same good intentions.

It could be said that the group most affected by the law is women. The following scenario presents an example of this.

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Those following court cases will notice that there are women in limbo, hanging between marriage and divorce, whose fates have lead them to husbands who only understand their own rights. Such is the case when a husband treats his wife as a servant, or when he has the desire to marry another, or for any other reason that his wife has nothing to do with, and looks at his wife as having "expired".

Activists take part in a demonstration against sexual harassment, rape and domestic violence in the Lebanese capital Beirut on December 7, 2019. [ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images]

Activists take part in a demonstration against sexual harassment, rape and domestic violence in the Lebanese capital Beirut on December 7, 2019. [ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images]

He abandons her, expels her, threatens her with divorce and when she asks for her rights, he becomes angered and behaves unethically. So, the poor woman returns to her family and resorts to the courts to ask for her legal rights. After several years of shuttling back and forth with mediators, her husband begins to bargain with her and says she needs to relinquish her rights so that she is freed. Herein lies the disaster represented by the law's silence on these matters, by allowing the husband to abandon his accountability. The victim in this situation is the woman, who sacrifices her time, money, psychological well-being and health. Worse still, is that after years of being in limbo and hanging between divorce and marriage, the peacemakers volunteer to persuade the wife to forgive and forget her rights in order for her to be free. However, in doing so, they have only made matters worse.

The law that permits the husband to do as he pleases with his wife is legitimising and legalising the continuation of this heinous behaviour. If it had forced the husband to give his wife all of her rights in accordance with Sharia law before divorcing her, then perhaps the severity of male recklessness towards women would be reduced.

To men of the law, I say: We have to realise that the absence of law is fertile grounds for the proliferation of many problems affecting the structure of society, threatening its stability. You must work hard to solve the problems of the individuals who make up half of our society, so that the whole of society can enjoy safety. No one is above the law, neither the wife nor the husband, nor their families. We must also adhere to the Quranic verse: "Cooperate with one another in goodness and righteousness, and do not cooperate in sin and transgression."

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Translated from Felesteen, 29 March, 2021.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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