How the Tribal Culture of Arabia is shaping the Political Life of Muslim Women

–By:Alexandra Kinias —


Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001

Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world was ruled by a woman. Megawati Sukarnoputri served as President of Indonesia in 2001. Bangladesh, the third populace Muslim country, had been ruled as of 2016, for the past 25 years by women; Khaleda Zia and Sheikha Hassina Wajed, respectively, were both elected as prime ministers.


KHALEDA ZIA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1991 – 1996; 2001 – 2006


SHEIKH HASINA, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, 1996 – 2001; 2009 – Present

The list of Muslim countries that were ruled by women includes Pakistan, Turkey, Senegal, Kyrgyzstan and Mali. Kosovo and Mauritius have female presidents. In Afghanistan, two female candidates ran for president against Hamid Karzai. Out of these eleven Muslim countries, none is an Arab, not even Egypt, the birthplace of Huda Sharawy, leader of the Egyptian suffragette movement and head of the Arab Women Union that influenced women movements across the Middle East. That raises the question of whether it is Islam or tribal culture that is hindering women’s advancement in the Middle East.


TANSU ÇILLER, Prime Minister of Turkey, 1993-1996

Even though gender equality is stated in the Egyptian constitution, women still can’t run for presidency or be appointed as prime ministers because parallel to the civil law in Egypt, the sharia (Islamic law) has the final word in deciding matters concerning women.


ROZA OTUNBAYEVA, President of Kyrgyzstan, 2010-2011

Because of the non-uniformity of Islam’s interpretations and implementations, women’s leadership is a debatable issue among religious scholars, depending where the religion is practiced. While the restriction on women’s leadership in many countries in Asia is limited to spiritual leadership (leading Muslims in prayers), it also includes political leadership in countries influenced by the tribal culture of Arabia. So not only women in Egypt and other Arab countries with Muslim majorities can’t run for presidency, but also in Lebanon, the only Arab country where only Christians can become presidents, no woman emerged as a political leader.


MAME MADIOR BOYE, Prime Minister of Senegal, 2001-2002

Male dominance is deeply engrained in tribal culture and women oppression existed in societies that predated Islam. Since the realization that girls were a profitable commodity, women became bargaining chips for tribal negotiations and their rape and enslavement motivated and attracted warriors to the battlefields. This culture perpetuated over the centuries and mutated through the various interpretations of the Quran to become the ideology that governs the lives of billions.

bhutto3 (1)

BENAZIR BHUTTO, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988 – 1990; 1993 – 1996

It is unrealistic though to throw the blame of women’s oppression entirely on this culture. Misogyny is a global social ailment and is practiced in societies where women’s rights are most advanced. However, as opposed to Muslim societies where misogyny is institutionalized, in western societies; laws that were drafted after fierce battles by women’s movements ensure gender equality before the law and criminalize the abuses against women. And while law enforcement turns a blind eye against domestic violence in the Middle East, the Islamic government of Indonesia is exerting extreme efforts to combat it by encouraging women to report such incidents. In Pakistan, however, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) drafted a bill in May 2016 recommending that men beat their wives to keep them in line. This bill came in response to a proposed law that would make it easier for women to report domestic violence. The CII opposed the law, and declared it un-Islamic.


ATIFETE JAHJAGA, President of Kosovo, 2011-present

The tribal culture of Arabia that hijacked Islam left its fingerprints in countries thousands of miles away from its birthplace and molded the lives of its followers across the globe into its tribalization form. In these societies religious scholars play the role of tribal leaders, drafting and supervising laws that guarantee women’s oppression.

And while the laws in the west enforce the civility of the nations, in spite of the new culture that travels with the immigrants under the cover of Islam, this nomadic culture is fragmenting identities of the countries it dominates. Today, the Egyptian identity that has thrived and survived over the millennia is standing at crossroads. It has been overshadowed by the tribal culture imported from behind the sand dunes of Arabia and affecting both Christians and Muslims alike, and especially women.


Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé – former prime minister of Mali

In Egypt, the women’s movement that reached its peak in the mid-fifties lost its momentum and witnessed a reversal over the past three decades with the surging influence of conservatism. In less than a year after Islamist Morsi came to power, the parliament had already proposed laws to reverse the ban on FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), to drop the age of marriage for girls below 16, and to abolish the law that gave women the right to divorce, thus ensuring women’s oppression. Luckily the Islamist parliament was dissolved before these laws were drafted.


AMEENAH FAKIM, President of Mauritius, 2015 – Present

The threat by the Muslim Brotherhood galvanized millions of women to take the streets side by side men to topple the theocratic regime. Women realized their power and are demanding more rights. The new administration has also recognized their power and is bestowing them with more privileges. For the first time in the history of modern Egypt, ninety two women were sworn in as parliament members, eighty four of whom were freely elected. The efforts to empower women are evident. While empowering campaigns are launched across the country, more women are taking leading positions in the government and more of them are choosing to remove the veil.

The road is long and bumpy. The conservative voices are clashing with the civil onse empowering women, to maintain their grip and control over them. The next few years are crucial in determining the path to where both women and the country are heading. The ultimate proof for the civility of Egypt is by appointing a female prime minister or allowing women to freely run in the presidential race. Until then, women empowerment will remain an unfinished business.



Filed under Islam and Women, Violence against women, Women in Egypt, Women's Rights, Women's rights in Egypt

Dekka: A ray of hope in a Cairo’s poor neighborhood


Reham Ahmed:Founder and Director of Dekka

Those who believe they can change the world are the ones who actually do, and Reham Ahmed, an avid believer in community service is determined to bring change to her poor neighborhood of Al Marg in Cairo. Together with a team of volunteers, the 24 years-old business administration graduate, is conducting a survey among young people in the neighborhood and analyzing the social ailments that are hindering their progress. Based on the findings, Ahmed founded “Dekka,” the first neighborhood cultural center that serves free of charge young people in her community, between the ages of 15 and 30. Ahmed is confident that culture and art are a big part of the cure for their social ailments.


Dekka, was initially founded as a library and book club in October 2015, in a small rented room, to spread awareness and restore hope in the hearts and minds of young people and help them rediscover themselves through reading and knowledge. As the idea evolved to include more activities like music, arts and handicrafts, Ahmed rented an apartment earlier this year to accommodate the increasing number of visitors. However, a bigger place translated in more investments beyond her means. Focused on her dream to develop Dekka as a cultural beacon in her neighborhood, the persistent young woman didn’t give up. Her mother who stood beside her daughter and encouraged her to proceed with the project since it was just an idea in her head, stepped in to help her with the finances available to her.


Reham also invited Rahma Mohsen, her long life friend, to join the project. A true believer in the power of books and knowledge herself, Rahma became a big supporter of the project, both financially and emotionally. A full time college student, Rahma helps as much as her time and schedule allow, which leaves managing the place to fall on the shoulders of Reham, the oldest and more experienced member of the team. Reham organizes the cultural and musical events, brainstorms with the team of volunteers that assist her for the upcoming events, communicates with the speakers, prepares for their presentations and currently she is developing the program for the children’s summer activities.

While many are elated with the new project and view it as a beam of hope, others are cautiously watching with cynicism. Reham admits that marketing Dekka to young people, which depends heavily on the word of mouth, is not as easy as they had anticipated.

“Young people in our neighborhood are not used to be provided with such activities and services within close proximity from where they live, and that makes them skeptical about our standards in comparison to other places that offer similar services, which they have to travel long distances to reach. But once they come to Dekka, they appreciate what we offer and they return back. The growth is taking place gradually and organically. And that’s what makes Dekka an interesting adventure.” Reham said.

But with the diversity of activities offered, the founders are confident that its growth is imminent. And in spite of the difficulties and challenges Reham faces, she urges young women to never let go of their dreams. “To let your dream die in front of your eyes is a crime you commit against yourself. Keep your dreams alive and work hard to achieve them.”


And when asked about her dreams, she answered, “I want Dekka to become a big library and beacon for enlightenment and knowledge in my neighborhood and the areas around it. By benefiting the community, I am also benefiting myself. Through the activities offered at Dekka, I am learning about arts, culture, and music and most important I get the opportunity to read more books and meet inspiring people. Spreading awareness and hope, and sharing one’s knowledge to enrich others is what I truly believe in, and what I aspire to do.”


Reham also hopes that as Dekka grows, so would its library, which so far includes a limited number of books for the use within the premises. The library depends heavily on donations of new and used books. As the library expands, young people will be allowed to borrow books. Other than donating books, Dekka invites people with success stories to share their experiences and knowledge with its young visitors, to inspire and motivate them.

*Dekka is an independent entity with no political affiliation

To donate books call: 011- 4191-3922, and a representative will come and pick them.


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A man in Egypt could be sent to three years in jail for slandering women


Taymour El Sobki on a TV show

–By: Alexandra Kinias —

Slander, humiliation, and ridicule of women are the active ingredients for jokes and humor in Egypt, and the shortest way to fame and financial gains. In a society where misogynists thrive, the blend of these ingredients produced the notorious Facebook page “Diaries of a Suffering Man.” Founded and administrated by Taymour El Sobki, the page attracted more than one million followers. With no substantial material to offer, but jokes with sexual contents demeaning and ridiculing women, – the magic blend to attract followers in a conservative and male dominant society – Sobki’s fame surged. It brought him out of the virtual world to television screens and right into jail.

Ironic how television hosts, especially women, interested to attract laughs from viewers, don’t challenge or question his motives. The more controversy he creates, his fame escalates, producers enjoy their fat wallets, and for that, women’s honor and dignity may be sacrificed at the altar of the advertising companies.

He affirmed on a popular show that – according to statistics, that he failed to quote their source – 33% of women in the conservative south of Egypt are unfaithful, and 45% of women in Egypt expressed interest to cheat on their husbands, but waiting for encouragement. His controversial remarks generated uproar and subsequently he received multiple death threats from men offended by his remarks. The prosecutor general issued a warrant for his arrest after a number of accusations filed against him from citizens, from the South of Egypt, for publicly defaming their women. According to the Egyptian law, Sobky could be jailed for up to three years if convicted.

Sobki, a product of a society and culture that advocates misogyny, and like most men born and raised in such environment, he finds no offense in slandering women. He practiced the right granted to him by religious scholars who marginalized women’s role to breeding machines, disregarded their rights, labeled unveiled women promiscuous and blamed them for their own rape, and granted men the license to beat and humiliate them. Along with religious scholars, the media also plays a major role in promoting violence and abuse against women. For many decades, violence, slandering and marginalizing the role of women in society and the workforce, have been the common denominator in movies and television shows. And due to the changes in ideological and religious beliefs, misogyny that found the fertile soil to grow, had gained speedy momentum. Sobki chose the sugar coated misogyny that had mutated to variable forms wrapped in satirical cloaks, which women accept as part of the culture, often with a smile, unaware of the crime committed against her.

As his fame escalated, Sobky launched a pro-polygamy campaign in January 2015. Ignoring the uproar from women rights and feminists groups, he proceeded with his psychopathic idea and launched another page on FB, “Polygamy Campaign.”

He explained the objective of his campaign in an interview with the electronic publication “Algarida News”. With the monthly membership fees collected, the campaign that he hoped to eventually register as an NGO, would assist underprivileged married men to remarry a second wife. Should this campaign succeed in the future, he would form a political party with a representation in the parliament. He proceeded that once elected a parliament member, he would campaign to repeal the divorce law that grants women the right to divorce. He blamed the law for the escalating rates of divorce in Egypt and the social problems caused by it. For anyone who watched carefully the events as they unfolded in the last few years will notice the astounding similarity between his objective and that of the Muslim Brotherhood.

More than one hundred years after Qassim Amin launched his campaign to liberate women, improve their social status, abolish polygamy and grant them the right to divorce; El Sobki is shamefully campaigning to repeal some of the rights that women had fought for over a century to gain.

Basking in a misogynist society surrounded by rights and privileges, El Sobky’s arrest caught him by surprise. Whether his arrest was an isolated incident or  the first step for more to come, is early to predict. But whatever message was sent out, Sobki’s arrest was an eye opener for men that slandering women is a crime that the time has come to  pay for it.







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Filed under Women in Egypt, Women of Egypt, Women Rights in Egypt, Women's rights in Egypt

Struggles of Egyptian Women


— By: Alexandra Kinias —

Women in Egypt live in perpetual struggle , both internal and external. To explain  the internal struggle she was going through, a young single woman borrowed the Cherokee tale of the two wolves to demonstrate her point.

The Tale of the Two Wolves

One evening, an elderly
Cherokee told his
grandson about a battle that
goes on inside people.
He said “my son, the battle is
between two ‘wolves’ inside us all.
One is evil. It is anger,
envy, jealousy, sorrow,
regret, greed, arrogance,
self-pity, guilt, and resentment.

The other is good.
It is joy, peace love, hope serenity,
humility, kindness, benevolence,
empathy, generosity,
truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson though about
it for a minute and then asked
his grandfather:”which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied,
“The one that you feed”

The young woman replaced the evil and good wolves in the Native American tale by Egyptian and Western ones. Similar to many other women her age, she was torn between the social, cultural and religious values she grew up with, and the western values imported to Egypt via satellite dishes, and which have influenced, shaped, and often distorted the perception of reality of how the west lives in the minds of many. None-the-less, exposure to the western pop culture has opened the eyes of many to a simpler, freer way of living where women are independent and where gender equality is practiced.

The Egyptian wolf living within this young woman, and many others, and that abide by the social rules and values, fought a continuous battle with the wolf that wants to live a westernized lifestyle, have a boyfriend, experience premarital sex, drinks, travels alone, or openly admitting their sexual orientations.

Because of the shame associated with imported western values alien to Middle Eastern societies, women don’t have enough courage to stand up to the social taboos, and as a result, lead a confused double standard life where  the battle between the two wolves becomes a part of it; it influences their views, decisions and mostly leaves them uncertain on which side they should stand. Despite their dreams of freedom and independence, breaking these taboos is challenging for some and impossible for many. Women are actually chained not only by social values, but also by religious ones.


Religion plays a powerful role in shaping their identities, protecting their virtues and honors and guiding them through life. It is the voice of conscience that whispers “haram .. haram .. haram..,” a constant reminder that enjoying life’s pleasures according to the western values is forbidden by Islamic law. So, in addition to the identity crisis many suffer from, they are also living in continuous shame and guilt. And no matter how fierce the battle between the wolves is, the Egyptian wolf wins. At the end of the day, they are compelled to live by the social and religious standards that have been drilled in their minds since birth, and which have been passed from generation to the other.

And while the wolves are fighting within, women in Egypt encounter another external struggle that is manifested in the pressures they are exposed to, to fulfil the social roles expected from  them. In a society where marriage is glorified, girls grow up to believe that it is women’s ultimate dream. And when unmarried young women above the age of twenty five are pitied, mocked, gossiped about and labeled as spinsters, staying single is not a choice.

Many women marry, often incompatible partners, because of social, peer and family pressure. Once married, they are pressured to start a family or stay in dysfunctional marriages, which until less than two decades ago, had no right to terminate them, but most importantly because a divorcee in the Egyptian society is looked down upon.

Before the new divorce laws that were issued in 2000, which granted women the right to divorce and retain the house, if the kids are still underage, non-working women with no source of income stayed married for financial reasons and in fear to end up homeless. And with the loose alimony and child support laws, not all families were ready for the extra expenses of a divorced daughter and grandkids. The irony, however, was that even women who could afford a divorce, still couldn’t get one. It was a right granted only to men.  And while some women couldn’t get a divorce, others were divorced against their wishes.

Society stigmatized and alienated divorced women. Viewed by many as loose and unrespectable women, friends avoided them to protect their husbands and their own marriages. Parents restricted their freedoms to guard their tarnished reputation, in the eyes of the society.  The endless battles in courts over the alimonies, child support and custody dragged for years and costed fortunes. Divorced women were nothing but trouble, and families were happy to hand them over to another man to resume their responsibilities.

Add to that that women growing up in misogynist societies learn to cope with their husband’s polygamy and domestic violence; for they are permitted by Sharia, the Islamic law. In Egypt, unlike the civil laws the rule the land, family laws are derived from Sharia, favoring men’s interests over women, which adds more burden to women’s lives. So, while women’s struggle continues, meager changes for their status take effect, since such changes must be permitted by religious scholars, whom by doing so would be defying the Islamic law.

It is very stressful to be a woman in Egypt.

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Is Egypt Really Putting a Price Tag on Women?

child bride

Photo copied from the Internet

— By:Alexandra Kinias —

Controversy erupted among Egyptian women activists over Chief Justice Ahmed El Zend’s decree that compels foreigners marrying Egyptian brides, twenty five years their junior, to issue them bank certificates worth of 50,000 L.E. On one hand, there are those who denounce the decree for putting a price tag on women, and thus facilitating prostitution and human trafficking. On the other, there are those, I among them, who hail the decree for finally addressing a subject that has been ignored for decades and taking the right step towards the protection of these women, who often are forced or lured into these marriages. A positive outcome of this controversy was that it also has exposed child marriages, a dark reality practiced in day broad light, and the failed government efforts to combat it.

Growing up in Egypt, I witnessed firsthand how poverty is the catalyst that drives many underprivileged women to marry incompatible foreign suitors from wealthy Arab countries, some with age difference that exceeds twenty five years. Once settled in their spouses’ homeland, some find themselves partners in a polygamous marriage, with a status slightly above domestic help, mistreated and often violently and sexually abused by the household. When sexual desire fades and the time comes to replace the wife with a new one, or if women rebel and ask for a divorce, they are sent back home with a suitcase, and often a child, or pregnant with one.

From the comfort of their sofas, the social media activists imprudently lashed at the government of Egypt from behind their computer screens. They ignored the fact that in Egypt, a country with extreme income inequality, this cash would enable women with no resources, a chance to start over, upon their return. Detached from reality and depleted from reason, some activists suggested that instead of putting a price tag on marriages, the government should rather intervene to stop them, quite a ludicrous statement since only a guardian (father, brother or uncle) can make such a decision.

The official marriage age in Egypt is eighteen, and the meager privilege of the 50,000 L.E., is denied to those whose marriages are unregistered, and that includes marriages of underage girls in rural villages across Egypt. Dwellers of these villages follow their own traditions and laws. In these conservative communities, people follow the guidance of the imams in the village mosques, whose preaching about girls’ eligibility to marriage when they reach puberty is to be blamed for the widespread practice of this crime.

In these rural communities, women are viewed as sex objects and breeding machines. The irony is that while some families marry their daughters at young age to protect their honor and releases the fathers from their financial responsibility, families on the other side of the spectrum marry their daughters for financial gains. For these families girls are their capital investments. But in spite of their different motives, the idea of marrying the girls at the age of fourteen is neither rejected nor negotiated. It is a status quo, a fact of life that has been passed on from one generation to the other.

The government’s incompetence to either fight or control underage marriages is because these marriages are undocumented, a manifestation of the power of the religious institutions over the government. Families draft urfi marriages, a religious contract between the girl’s guardian and the groom, signed by two male witnesses and blessed by the mosques’ imams. Urfi contracts are not official documents and don’t protect the wife’s rights in marital dispute. They are temporary vehicles till the girls are old enough for the marriage to be registered. If the marriage fails before the girls reach eighteen, children born out of them share the same fate and status as illegitimate children. If fathers walk away with the marriage contract, the burden to prove parenthood falls on the shoulder of women. Resorting to courts to issue a birth certificate to the child is a lengthy and costly procedure most can’t afford, not to mention that it exposes the families to the unlawful crime of marring an underage girl, a crime which if proven is punished by the law.

The same concept is used by families that marry their underage daughters to wealthy Arabs, or what they have become known as “seasonal marriages”, because they take place mainly during the summer season. Wealthy Arabs travel to Egypt in the summer, and through marriage brokers, they purchase underage girls for sex, a classic case of child sex trafficking. Because of the escalating rates of sex child tourism, the U.N. classified Egypt as a Tier 2 country for human trafficking, which means that Egypt is among the countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victim’s Program Assistance (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

Child Marriages are sparked by poverty, illiteracy and greed, ignited by sexually sick societies and protected by the religious scholars. But in all fairness, poverty alone can’t be blamed because there are millions of poor families who don’t sell their girls. Civil laws can’t fight thousands of years’ old traditions, especially those that are shrouded with religious justifications.

Pedophilia is practiced in many countries around the globe. However, unlike elsewhere where it is criminalized, in the Middle East it is blessed by religious fatwas. People in rural areas in Egypt follow the preaching of their imams with disregard to the law. Wealthy pedophiles engage in child sex believing they are following in the footsteps of Prophet Mohamed, who allegedly married his wife Aisha when she was at the age of nine. Aisha’s age is highly debatable since her exact birthdate is unknown, and also because many historical events conclude that she was at least nineteen years of age when her marriage was consummated. However, because of the non-conclusive interpretations by various scholars, this crime continues and some girls are sold to one man after the other. In a horrid testimonial, a twenty four years old girl explained in televised interview how she was married eight times in ten years.

The crawling efforts by the NGOs and civil institutions to spread awareness against underage marriages are overpowered by tradition, culture, ignorance, financial gain, and above all medieval religious fatwas exploiting the innocence of these girls. Integrating these girls back into the society is also challenging. The entire society is responsible for stealing these girls childhood. What kind of future generations we expect to bring up?

1- L.E. 50,000 fee on foreigners who marry Egyptian women ‘if age difference exceeds 25 years’: Justice Ministry

2- 2014 U.N. Trafficking in Persons Report – Egypt

3- A twelve years old girl engaged to be married in few months

4- A twenty four years old woman explains in televised interview how she was married eight times in ten years.

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Filed under Child marriages in Egypt, Editorial, Sex Tourism in Egypt

Polygamy: Infidelity with a License


By: Alexandra Kinias —

Polygamy, a medieval practice, is still alive today in societies where sharia rules. And even in countries where the laws don’t permit it, the imams in the mosques perform polygamous religious matrimonial ceremonies. As the powers of the imams are stronger than secular laws, these religious marriages are valid without the need to register them with the authorities. So, an immigrant to a western society can have a registered wife in front of the law, and another one or two who are not. Even though polygamy is legalized in Islam, the most faithful women strongly stand against sharing their husbands with another woman. The fact that the law permits a husband to engage in a sexual relation with another woman, doesn’t stop the first wives from feeling betrayed and cheated,  by both the husbands and the state.

Islam permitted the second marriage under very strict conditions and terms. And against the beliefs of many, it was neither promoted nor encouraged. Justice between the wives is the foundation upon which polygamy was based. In the Quranic verse 4:3, Allah says, “….…if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with them, then [marry] only one….. That is the best way to avoid doing injustice.”

Islam permits a man to marry a second wife only if he is absolutely certain that he will treat his wives fairly, and that he would share everything equally between them. In other words, a man cannot favor one woman over the other, emotionally and financially, which in reality is impossible. Failing to do that precludes the validity that permits polygamy. Men’s rationalization of polygamy without following the clear guidelines that allowed it is a clear abuse to the rights granted to them.

Reasons why men marry a second wife?

With no consideration to the emotional, mental and psychological impact they inflict on their first wives and kids, men marry second wives simply because they can. With the premise that they have neither broken the law nor sinned, they practice their right to engage in sexual relations with multiple partners. This inherited medieval practice will not be obliterated in the near future. On the contrary, in societies where conservatism is on the rise and/or economy is declining, polygamy is gaining momentum.
In spite of the clear religious justifications that permitted polygamy, for most men it is just a fling. The ludicrous justification of their actions remains elusive; whether it is discontentment or boredom with their marriages, or a self-reward for life achievements. For some polygamy is a social status. With financial gains comes a new wife.

In crude terms, polygamy in reality is a license for infidelity. Polygamous conduct is propelled by men’s primal desire: sex, which is not only accepted by their peers, but is often defended too. Advocates of polygamy compare a man’s second marriage with extramarital affairs in western societies. Naturally, their ridiculous comparison favors and condones polygamy. They incriminate the western sinners who engage in extramarital affairs, while defending Muslim men for practicing a right granted to them by their faith. That’s an absurd and irrational argument, but expected from those who ignore the fact that extramarital affairs are neither accepted in western societies nor legalized by the law.

In Islam, the consent of the first wife is required for a husband to marry a second one. The first wife then has the choice to either stay married or get a divorce. And while a few men confront the first wife with their decision, the majority keeps the marriage secret in fear of confrontation that may lead to a divorce or social tarnishing, especially among family, friends or coworkers.

With the loose family laws in Egypt, men managed to keep their second marriages clandestine. But new laws were drafted to tighten the loopholes to ensure that wives are informed when their husbands register the second marriage. Inevitably, and in defiance to these laws, men either don’t register their second marriages – similar to what Muslims do in Western societies – or conclude an ‘Orfi’ marriage, which is a simple contract drafted between the bride and groom and signed by two male witnesses.

First wives vs. second wives

No doubt second marriages violate the trust between spouses, often lost forever in some cases. It is not just the jealousy from another woman that drives the first wives, but for most it is a manifestation of failure as a woman, a partner and a wife. Not to mention the tormenting emotional pain they endure. Sadly enough, and due to several factors, not all first wives choose to terminate this demeaning love triangle. Financially dependent women would resentfully stay in this hurtful relationship, accepting emotional crumbs from their husbands, with no one to thank but the lawmakers that drafted the laws that guaranteed women’s submissiveness. Had divorce laws granted women financial independence, not many would stay in a polygamous relationship.  The situation is even worse when kids are involved. Because of the loose child support laws in Egypt, many men abandon their financial obligations towards their kids, without fear of punishment. Some would do it out of negligence while others to pressure women to stay in a dysfunctional marriage against their will. Economically threatened women are compelled to accept the situation out of financial need.

Why women become a co-wife?

Women in Egypt are living under continuous societal pressure to get married, have kids and start a family. Some would marry incompatible partners simply to avoid staying single, even if it means that this marriage inevitably would end with a divorce. Divorced women are not in any better position than the single ones. They are also subjected to their share of societal pressure. How the society perceives and treats single and divorced women play a major role in spreading polygamy.

To be objective, and before throwing the blame on these women, it is important to consider thoroughly the reasons why they choose to accept a part time husband. Circumstances vary from one case to the other, and more important than denouncing these women, it is imperative to understand why they choose to become a co-wife, tolerating the social smear, labeled as home wreckers and husbands’ thieves.

There are multiple social factors that contribute to the existence and sustainability of this love triangle, on top of which is economical. Economic pressures compel young single women, divorcees and widows with kids, to accept becoming a second wife, in secret. For many, marriage becomes a necessity and becoming a co-wife and have emotional and financial stability is better than staying single. Having a man that would provide the emotional and financial stability to a widow and her kids is a dream come true to many. Also the societal pressures on single women, who passed their prime age, leave them with fewer choices of single men and more of married ones.


While polygamy is no doubt an emotional crime committed against the marriage, it is more relevant not to blame the women who take part in it as much as blaming the laws that favor men. These laws force women into one form of submission or another. The sustainability of polygamy is an affirmation that society lacks empathy, fairness and understanding in treating its women. Eradicating polygamy will only materialize if collective efforts unite to combat the reasons that cause women to fall for such marriages in the first place.

However, it is unfair to assert that all second wives marry for financial reasons or societal pressure. In a society where out-of-marriage sex in still a taboo, marriage is the answer to both men and women who are seeking a good time, with no strings attached. Many of these marriages are short lived. When the sexual desire expires, so does the marriage. For some men with means, it becomes a way of life, always ready for a new adventure. And for a wide range of these men, such adventures take place with the knowledge of the first wives who would keep a blind eye, knowing that at the end the man always comes back to her nest.

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Filed under Polygamy in Egypt, Urfi Marriage, Women in Egypt, Women Rights in Egypt

Why marriages in Egypt are becoming disposable?


By: Alexandra Kinias —

Marriage is a partnership with shared responsibilities. But in Egypt, women’s share exceeds that of their partners’. Most Egyptian men, pampered and spoilt by their mothers, expect a wife’s role to be an extension of their mother’s, but with benefits. So, while many proceed with their immature bachelor lifestyle, women take responsibility of the house and kids, and work a full time job. As the concept of family is distorted in the minds of many men, most women complain that their husbands rarely, if ever, help with the house chores or spend time with the kids. Men fail to comprehend that their availability in the lives of their wives and kids is part of their marital responsibility. As women invaded the work force and became financially independent, they are looking for a life partner who values them, not just to impregnate and feed them.

Rarely a woman seeks divorce because of a husband’s lack of responsibility towards the house or kids. For centuries, such responsibilities had befallen upon the shoulders’ of women and they are used to them anyway. Resentful and frustrated with their selfishness and irresponsibility, women’s tolerance dwindles. And when other factors enter the equation, divorce becomes the solution for many.

However, women are not to be spared the blame for failed marriages. Many women tie the knot for the wrong reasons, on top of which is to avoid the societal discrimination against unmarried women. For many women marriage is merely a social status. In a society that glorifies marriage, they prefer a divorced status over being single. Women’s unrealistic expectations of marriage are also a contributing factor to the failure of many. Marriage is a real life story and setting their standards to Hollywood romantic movies inevitably leads to divorce. Some women create in their minds a fairytale image about marriage that is detached from reality. And when reality doesn’t meet their expectations, they feel betrayed.

True, the absence of love may be the cause to terminate a marriage, but love alone doesn’t sustain one. Marriage is not all butterflies and rainbows, but also problems, conflicts, routine, boredom and a lot of dirty diapers. Marriage comes with no guarantees, but divorce comes with lots of consequences, especially when kids are involved. For many Egyptian women it is a dilemma to whether stay miserable in a failed marriage or divorce and face the societal challenge that comes with the new status. It is just like jumping from the fire to the frying pan, as the cliché goes.

After decades of oppression, women resort to divorce instead of mending the relationship, because unlike their mothers and grandmothers, now they can. Divorce became the easiest and fastest remedy to most marital problems, but it is not always the solution and it should be the last option when everything else fails. It is not an easy decision to make, but often it is inevitable.

Marriage is becoming disposable to many young couples. They don’t take the time or make an effort to fix it, but rather throw it away like a broken appliance. Even if divorce is your decision, be prepared for the heartache, confusion, sleepless nights, and fears of an uncertain future. Divorce is a painful and messy process, an end to an emotional journey of years traveled together. Nothing can be more heartbreaking and devastating than to watch your life tumbles down in front of your eyes. Don’t rush for a divorce unless you are in an abusive situation. Don’t run away from your marriage until you have tried hard to salvage it. The time and love you invested in building your life together is definitely worth fighting for.

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