Representatives of Egypt’s three major Churches: the Coptic Orthodox, Coptic Catholic, and Evangelical Church have officially handed the final draft of the unified family law for Christians in Egypt to the Cabinet.
Representing the Coptic Orthodox Church were Anba Pola, Bishop of Tanta, and Judge Munsif Soliman; the Coptic Catholic Church was represented by Bishop Thomas and Judge Gamil Halim; and the Evangelicals by Rev. dr Estafanous Zaky, Rev. Rifaat Fathy, and Judge Youssef Talaat. Representing the Cabinet was Judge Sherif al-Shazli, aide to Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly.
According to Mr Talaat, the final draft for a unified family law for Christians in Egypt has been in the making since 2015. Given that each Church has rules that may be different from others, it was decided that the draft law would include separate chapters for each sect regarding the items they differed on. This was especially conspicuous in matters that concern divorce, separation, and marriage annulment. The Catholic Church had to obtain approval from the Vatican on all items that pertained to them.
The law includes a chapter on inheritance, which treats men and women equally on all levels.
Christians in Egypt were in dire need for a family law that would apply to one and all, no matter which sect they belonged to. Courts could so far issue rulings that complied with Christian doctrine in cases pertaining to Christian family disputes only if these cases involved persons that belonged to the same sect, and only if this sect was covered by bylaws that governed its family matters. Otherwise, if the disputing parties belonged to different Christian sects, and in the absence of legislation that covered such cases, courts would rule according to Islamic sharia (Islamic law). Without doubt, this caused injustices, and also opened wide the door for manipulating religions by Christians who desired to act contrary to their Church teaching. The injustice was especially flagrant in divorce cases where Islamic sharia allows a man to unilaterally divorce his wife upon personal whim; and also in inheritance cases. Whereas Christian doctrine allows men and women equal inheritance shares, Islamic law stipulates that a male inherits double the share of a female. Under the new law, in cases that involve any of the disputing parties changing sect, courts would rule according to the sect under which the original contract or agreement was contracted.
The Cabinet representative, Judge Shazli, welcomed the move by the Churches to submit the final draft for a unified family law for Christians in Egypt, and promised the government would speed up the remaining legal steps until it may be submitted to parliament for passage into law. These steps include revision of the draft law by a committee of legal experts from the Ministry of Justice together with Church representatives.
For detailed readings on the draft law, and the need for it:
20 October 2020