Marriage And Family
Marriage remains at the center of contemporary Egyptian social life. It is the primary focal point in the lives of both women and men, followed only by the birth of a child. The rights and obligations of husband and wife are defined by Islamic law, the division of labor by gender, and Egyptian cultural practice.
A Muslim marriage gives a wife the unconditional right to economic support from her husband regardless of her own financial resources. She also remains in control of her property, including inheritance or earned income. However, in case of divorce, the ex-wife is only entitled to three months' alimony and to those possessions that she brought with her at the beginning of her marriage or those that she acquired with her own income, as well as any portion of her mahr that is due her. Mahr is a sum of money or durable property that, according to Islamic practice, a husband agrees to pay to his bride at any time prior to or during the marriage or upon divorce.
In return for the unconditional economic support of his family, a husband has certain rights within the marriage, the most important of which is the right to restrict his wife's physical mobility, which is often interpreted as the right of a husband to prevent his wife from working outside the home. He also has the unilateral right to end the marriage without the consent of his wife. And in case of divorce, the husband legally receives custody of the children after they have reached the age of seven. It is, however, customary for girls to remain with their mothers after a divorce. Recently, changes in the law in favor of women have curtailed some of husbands' rights. Primarily, women are now able to file for divorce, especially in cases of domestic violence, and men must now legally file for divorce and cannot divorce a woman simply by uttering "I divorce thee" three times, as is permitted by the Qur'an. Cultural practices, such as cross-cousin marriages and sizable sums of money through the mahr, have evolved to protect women and counterbalance the unequal rights in cases of divorce. However, the relatively low incidence of divorce in Egypt (according to the last census at 2%), particularly after children are born, suggests that marriage is a stable institution.