Egypt establishes insurance policy against divorce

There were 220,096 divorces in Egypt in 2018, the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics stated, a 6.7% increase from the previous year.
Saturday 05/10/2019
Two students perform a skit at Cairo University about a married couple having an argument as part of a new government project aimed at curbing Egypt’s divorce rate. (Reuters)
A stubborn problem. Two students perform a skit at Cairo University about a married couple having an argument as part of a new government project aimed at curbing Egypt’s divorce rate. (Reuters)

CAIRO - Egyptian officials are crafting legislation that would require married men to obtain insurance for their family in the event of divorce.

The suggested amendments to the insurance code, introduced by the Financial Regulatory Authority, are aimed at ensuring greater protection for vulnerable citizens, including the growing number of divorced mothers.

“Divorce is becoming a very worrying phenomenon in our country,” said Hanan Salem, a professor of sociology at Ain Shams University. “There is an urgent need for action here.”

There were 220,096 divorces in Egypt in 2018, the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics stated, a 6.7% increase from the previous year. In 2017, the national divorce rate was 2.1 per every 1,000 marriages, considered high for the region.

For some, the growing divorce rate points to an erosion of the traditional family structure fuelled by an increase in the national poverty rate.

The proposed legislation would require men to purchase a divorce insurance policy before marrying in an amount based on the dowry paid to the bride’s family. It has not been settled whether this would be a one-time fee or a recurring payment but there are fears that having to purchase an insurance policy on marriages could affect the plans of those getting married if they were forced to pay a large amount of money for the insurance.

Khaled el-Nashar, deputy chairman of the Financial Regulatory Authority, said divorced mothers would receive the entire sum if a marriage ends.

“This will help them get by until they reach a settlement of their financial rights, either peacefully or through the courts,” Nashar said.

The aftermath of a divorce can be especially painful for mothers, who often struggle for years through backlogged courts before cases of alimony or child custody are resolved.

Some divorced mothers did not receive any financial settlement, which can drive them and their children into poverty and homelessness, analysts said. There are tens of thousands of homeless children in Egypt.

“Husbands easily shirk their responsibility for sustaining their children after divorce,” said Khaled Shehab, a lawyer who specialises in divorce proceedings. “This deals irreparable damage to families, especially if the women divorced are unemployed.”

The proposed insurance policies are a response to the courts’ failures to manage divorce cases.

In 2004, Egypt introduced “family courts” aimed at quickly resolving divorce-related disputes between former spouses.

In January 2017, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi proposed ending “oral divorces,” through which men divorce their wives simply by word of mouth. His proposal would have required divorces to be officially documented. However, the initiative was blocked by al-Azhar, which said barring oral divorces would contradict Islamic precepts.

The cabinet was expected to approve amendments to the insurance code and refer them to parliament for debate and a vote, possibly in October when parliament reconvenes.

Some lawmakers said they were enthusiastic about the amendments, calling them an important step to ensuring mothers’ legal rights.

“Most men are certain that alimony cases take a very long time at the courts,” said lawmaker Faiqa Fahim. “The new insurance policy would immunise those mothers against the financial problems they face after the collapse of their marriage.”

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