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Year: 2007 Type: Report Language: English

In the last decade a series of reforms have been introduced in Egyptian family laws. On January 26, 2000 the Egyptian Parliament passed procedural Law No. 1 of 2000. The goal of this law was to address the problems of backlog of cases and inefficient legal procedures, challenges which were mostly confronted by women since they tended to be the majority of claimants in family law cases. Law 1 also introduced two significant articles for women. Article 20 gives women the right to file for no-fault divorce (known as khul) in exchange for forfeiting their financial rights, and Article 17 gives women in unregistered marriages (known as urfi marriage) the right to file for divorce. In 2004, two more legal reforms were passed: Law 10 introduced new family courts with the aim of establishing a legal system that is non-adversarial, attentive to the best interests of the family, accessible, and affordable. Also, Law 11 of 2004 set up a government-run Family Fund, called Nasser Bank, to facilitate the implementation of court orders for alimony and child maintenance. Lastly, in 2005 Law 4 was passed, which gives divorced women the right to maintain the custody of their children until they reach age 15. But have these legal reforms enhanced women’s rights in the family domain? Have they enabled them to access justice in family law cases? This paper presented to the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting held from 28-30 November 2007 in Washington DC, attempts to provide some answers to these questions by reporting the findings of an eleven-month ethnographic study of the new family courts in Egypt.