For many generations, women vowed to give their all, and instead of receiving the equal treatment of love and appreciation, they were oppressed and degraded. In Egypt, a woman did not have the right to divorce herself; therefore, she had to put up with all the humiliation, mistreatment, unfairness, and inequality everyday. Today, women are celebrating the new law of “Khul'”, which gives the woman the right to divorce herself with or without her oppressor’s consent, but the question is: does the woman become really free?
In our parents days, women had truly suffered extremely damaging marriages, being totally helpless and with no power. Some women tried to use their parents, others used the police, and some just accepted bad marriages as their fate. In the cases where the husband treats his wife aggressively by beating and causing injuries, the woman can provide evidence by police records and hospital certificates, but men always refute these evidence by saying that the wife caused these injuries herself. Thanks to the khul’ law women can finally move a step forward in gaining their rights, while moving closer to equality with men. However, we also see that many other factors still affect a woman’s decision of whether or not to get a divorce, and some consequences of freely taking this decision.
In the Egyptian society, the marriage relationship is a very sacred one. It assembles between a man and a woman who are supposed to have common characteristics and their relation to be built on mutual understanding. Accordingly, almost all couples experience a happy and comfortable life in their earliest years of marriage. However, after they become accustomed to each other, the defects of each begin to appear and they may reach a point where they are unable to tolerate each other, let alone live and raise a family together. So, problems arise and lead to divorce. Yet, divorce is extremely problematic for women for several reasons. First, women’s families and the society do not accept divorce easily. Second, men have the right of divorce whenever they want. Third, according to the old divorce law, women used to face many problems in courts to obtain divorce. But according to the new law khul’, women will be able to obtain their freedom easily, and they will be able to face their families and society by the force of law and Islamic Shariaa.
Egyptian women wanting divorce face many problems from their families and relatives. Their families think that once the girl is married, she is responsible for her new family’s problems, as she should face and solve these problems without even thinking of divorce as an option. Al-Ahram Weekly reporter Mariz Tadros refers to Wafaa as an example. Wafaa is a poor peasant, who wanted to get divorced because her husband treated her in an aggressive way, physically and emotionally. The response she got from her parents was not at all supportive. Her mother always wanted her to return to her husband and told her that: “all homes are like that. This is your fate.” (Tadros, “By the Skin”). Also, Wafaa’s father screamed, “if you do this, you are not my daughter.” (Tadros, “By the Skin”). So, the divorce idea is seen as an impossible solution as it brings shame to the girl and the whole family. From society’s point of view, mainly the middle and lower social classes; which are the majority of our population, a man would never divorce an obedient and respectful wife; in other words, the woman is always seen as the one who commits mistakes and sins, which break down the family. But, the man is right all the way and is not responsible for the problems or divorce. So, the stereotype of the divorced women really oppresses many of these women, regardless of how much the law now supports them.
Since families are part of the society, not only do women face family problems, but they also face the condemnation of the whole society. Social problems cannot be denied because they really exist in everyone’s life, especially in divorced women’s lives. Divorced women are always surrounded by rumors and questions about their private and pervious experiences with me. Also, the curiosity of our society causes more problems to the stressed and divorced women. For instance, if a woman got divorced, people, at her work, neighbors, district, all would ask about her previous husband and the problems that had happened between them and how she obtained divorce from courts. These are embarrassing questions, which many women would not like to answer. Unfortunately, the result in not answering usually arouses even more questions eventually developing negative rumors, and leaving the women alone in the dark – looked down upon by an uneducated society.
In an interview with Gihan El Sadat, a couple of years ago, she stated the following: “A woman has to be secure, because only a relaxed, comfortable mother was capable of raising her children properly. Only then, could she give, for she would not be consumed with defending herself, and protecting her family. Only then, could she concentrate all her effort on raising her children, and taking care of her husband.” (LRRC Cairo, Egypt) I totally agree with her, and I think this is the key issue that our society must understand. In order to understand it, I strongly believe men must get more educated – I see that education is the key to understanding so many world problems, and working towards solving them. By simply passing a law giving a woman her right to divorce, we have only taken one of many steps in forming equality between genders.