Problems on hold Equal inheritance for men and women

14-02-2015 01:10 PM

Youssef Sidhom

I continue today the reading I last week started in Fathy Ragheb Hanna’s Ahkaam wa Qawaid al-Mawareeth wal-Wassiya Wifqan li-Ahkaam al-Sharia al-Masseehiya—wa Ahkaam al-Sharia al-Islamiya (Rules and Fundamentals of Inheritance and Wills According to the Provisions of Christian Doctrines—and the Provisions of Islamic Jurisdiction). Mr Hanna is a lawyer with the Constitutional Court and the Court of Cassation. I will shed light on the parts that stipulate equal inheritance shares for male and female heirs.

vThe will and inheritance in the personal status bylaws for the Coptic Orthodox in 1938:

  • Chapter II: Inheritance:
  • Article (245): the descendants of the deceased take precedence over all other relatives in inheritance. They take the entire estate or what remains of it after the spouse is given his or her share. If there are several descendants and they are all relatives of the same degree to the deceased, the estate is divided evenly among them, regardless of their being male or female. If for instance the deceased leaves behind a son and a daughter, each of them gets half the estate. And if he is succeeded by three grandchildren, as in a son of a son, a daughter of a daughter, and a son of a daughter, each gets one third of the estate.
  • Article (246): If the deceased has no direct descendants, what remains of the estate after deducting the spouse’s share goes to his parents. If one of them is dead, his share is equally divided between his children, who are the brothers and sisters of the deceased.
  • Article (247): If the deceased has no descendants, father, or mother; the estate, after deducting the spouse’s share, goes to his brothers and sisters, and is evenly divided among them with no difference between brother and sister. If any of the brothers and sisters had died before the deceased, their share goes to their children, evenly divided among them with no difference between male and female.

vThe will and inheritance for the Greek Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox:

Issued by the President of the Syrian Republic through decree number 7 in 2011.

  • Chapter II: Degrees of heirs and division of the estate:
  • Article (11): The first degree: the children of the deceased and their direct descendants inherit from their parents and predecessors evenly, without discrimination between male and female. If the deceased leaves behind only one offspring, whether male or female, the estate is given to him or her alone. The second degree: in case of the absence of first-degree heirs and spouses, and if both parents of the deceased are alive at the time of his or her death, the estate is evenly divided between the parents. If one of the parents had died before the deceased, the entire estate goes to the other parent. The third degree: In case there are no first or second-degree heirs, and in the absence of a spouse of the deceased, the estate is evenly divided between the full siblings. In case there are no full siblings, the estate is divided evenly between the paternal grandparents, or goes to the surviving one; otherwise it is divided evenly among the paternal uncles and aunts or, in case of their absence to their direct descendants, evenly. In case of the absence of paternal heirs, the estate is divided between the maternal grandparents evenly or to the surviving one, the next in line being their descendants, then their brothers and sisters evenly.

I apologise for citing so many apparently redundant details, but I assure that there is no redundancy. I am keen to highlight the fair, original principle of absolute equality between male and female in the various degrees of inheritance. I insist that it is imperative to enact legislation that would include this principle in the Family Law for Christians. This would secure dignity and justice for women. I also hope that once this applies to Christian women, the community would follow suit regarding Muslim women. Is this dream too hard to realise in our new Egypt?


Watani International

15 February 2015


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