AFRICA/EGYPT - Further delays regarding the new law on the personal status of Christians

Tuesday, 27 June 2023 oriental churches   family   marriage   divorce

Cairo - (Agenzia Fides) - The text of a new law on the personal status of Egyptian Christians has been ready for some time, but various reasons and circumstances continue to delay its approval and enactment, repeatedly given as imminent by Egyptian political and ecclesial figures. Coptic Bishop Anba Paula, in a recent speech on local media, referred to details that can at least partially explain the delay in the parliamentary approval of the law. "The text of the law on the personal status of Christians," said the Coptic bishop, "is practically complete and will not be submitted to Parliament for approval only because the Egyptian institutions intend to make a number of significant changes to the laws at the same time define the personal status of Muslim citizens".
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi has also repeatedly pointed out the urgency of a comprehensive revision of national legislation on civil status and family law, thereby showing that it is not just about revising the special regulations reserved for Christians. In May 2022 (see Fides, 11/5/2022), Al Sisi declared that the legislation on civil status and family law must be balanced and provide for appropriate measures, also to counteract gradual phenomena such as the increase in divorces. Even then, statements by President al-Sisi indicated that objections from Islamic authorities and representatives were preventing the final adoption of the new personal status laws, particularly on the issue of divorce. The President had also expressed concern that Egypt's high divorce rate and current laws on marriage, repudiation and divorce, which severely penalize women, are also the cause of the decline in marriages. The revision of the law on the personal status of Egyptian Christians, which the Coptic Orthodox Church and the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Egypt had been waiting for decades, was already completed in the first half of 2021 (see Fides, 6/7/2021). The revision required no less than 16 working sessions, held at the Ministry and attended by experts, government officials and representatives of the various Christian denominations convened by the civil authorities in order to finalize the text and seek consensus among all Churches and Ecclesial Communities regarding the formulation of all the articles of the draft law. Meanwhile, the participation of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities represented in Egypt in the lengthy process of drafting a new law on civil status had already begun in 2014 (see Fides, 22/11/2014). At that time, the Ministry of Justice had already submitted a draft of the law to the leaders of the various churches, with the request that they study the text of the draft in detail and transmit their reflections on the subject in a short space of time. The draft took a long time to complete, largely due to the negotiation of drafting a text that would be unified but still reflect the different Church approaches to issues such as separation and divorce, regulated differently by the various Christian denominations. Finally, on October 15, 2020, the draft of the unified legal text, drawn up by consensus by the representatives of the various churches and ecclesial communities, was handed over to the government authorities. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 27/6/2023)