Protesters shout slogans during a march, demanding equal inheritance rights for women, in Tunis, Tunisia March 10, 2018. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
CAIRO – 15 August 2018: Inheritance equality between men and women, which Tunisia calls for, has stirred controversy in Egypt as some called on members of the Parliament to submit a draft law guaranteeing equality between men and women in inheritance.
The presenter of “90 Minutes” program, Mohamed el-Baz, said that women’s status nowadays differs from that in the prophet’s period as women today contribute more to societies and are breadwinners.
Egyptian law follows an interpretation of the Islamic law, in which a man inherits double the share of a female, with some exceptions, including the mother and father of a deceased person both receiving one-sixth of the deceased’s possessions, based on what is stated in the Qur’an.
Baz added that equality between men and women in inheritance does not contradict with God’s decree as it is no longer suitable for the conditions of today's community.
“Nobody can change the Qur’an’s verses regarding inheritance. We will preserve the holy text, but it will not come into effect as it is no longer appropriate for the community nowadays,” he remarked.
In the same context, a member of Egyptian Parliament's Social Solidarity Committee, Mohamed Abu Hamed, said that inheritance equality in Egypt is a very complicated issue as the religious discourse should be renewed for inheritance equality to be applied.
He added that Article 2 of the Constitution, stipulating that Shari'a (Islamic law) is the main source of legislation, will influence the religious point of view, stressing that Al-Azhar has criticized Tunisia’s decision in this regard.
MP Shoukry al-Gendy of the Religious Committee of Endowments and Religious Affairs said that the Qur’an’s texts on the inheritance for men and women are very clear, and all Muslims should obey God and his prophet, referring that such calls are void.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi has called for the formation of a committee to study the issue of individual rights to further enact them and to consider equality between men and women in all fields including inheritance.
Essebsi remarked on the occasion of the National Women’s Day on August 13 that he will submit a draft law before the Parliament, calling for inheritance equality between men and women after the Parliament returns from its vacation in October.
He stressed that the draft law respects the freedom of individuals to choose to apply the inheritance equality or not.
"Inheritance is a matter for mankind that God left to the diligence of the people according to their era," the Tunisian president previously said on the occasion of the National Women’s Day on August 13, 2017.
A few weeks before the first municipal councils election since the Tunisian revolution in 2011, the political arena witnessed polarization and disputes. Essebsi’s requests shocked both social and political circles when he returned pleas for more freedoms and equality between men and women in various fields.
Essebsi’s request crossed all red lines and taboos, not only in Tunisia but in the Arab and Islamic world. Tunisia was the first Arab country to make such a move.
Essebsi asked the government and his minister of justice to end a regulation that prohibits the documentation of any marriage of a Tunisian Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man.
Essebsi pledged to find a form that does not conflict with public opinion. He cited Turkey's recognition of equality between men and women since Mostafa Kamal Ataturk's era.
He also stressed that Islam does not conflict with democracy and development, "In Tunisia, democracy goes hand in hand with respect for Islam," he said.
Essebsi praised the Parliament's approval in July of a landmark bill that criminalizes violence against women, making Tunisia the first Arab country to issue a law specifically addressing such violence.
Some 41 percent of Tunisian judges are women, while 60 percent are in the medical field, and 50 percent in the engineering sector, Essebi said.
Women’s rights in Egypt
Throughout 2017, women gained more rights in several fields with the support of the government.
On Dec. 5, Parliament passed a new inheritance law that gives women their legitimate right to inheritance after numerous suppressed women – especially in Upper Egypt and some rural and urban areas – were deprived of it.
Egypt used to have no sanctions to punish someone who keeps members of a family – usually women – from receiving their rightful shares of an inheritance.
Often an inheritance is kept from a woman because the family fears property ownership would transfer to her husband and not be kept in the immediate family.
Accordingly, the National Council for Women (NCW) started pressuring Parliament to issue a law guaranteeing inheritance rights for Egyptian women, until February when the Parliament’s Legislative Committee approved an amendment proposed by the government to Inheritance Law No. 77/43.
Under this amendment, a number of violations would be considered criminal offenses; such violations include intentionally depriving heirs of their rightful inheritance. The amendment proposes punishment of at least 3 years in prison and a fine ranging between LE 20,000-100,000 (around $1,119-5,595).
Also, hiding documents that could prove a person's legal right to an inheritance is considered a violation. In such cases, the offender would be sentenced to at least six months in prison and a fine ranging between LE 10,000-50,000. If the violation is repeated, the amendment calls for a sentence of at least 1 year in prison.
In a relevant context, early this year, Parliament approved a draft bill pushing for tougher penalties on sexual harassment. The bill imposed an increase in fines ranging between LE 5,000-10,000 on those who are found guilty of sexual harassment in public or private areas, with harassment defined as gestures, words, any modern means of communication or any other action that carries sexual or pornographic hints.
The Feb. 2017 Cabinet reshuffle included nine new portfolios, one of which was occupied by Hala al-Saeed, minister of planning. Furthermore, the Ministry of Investment and the Ministry of International Cooperation have been merged to become the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation headed by Sahar Nasr. This is in addition to the already appointed Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali and Minister of Immigration Nabila Makram.
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi announced that Egyptian women have played a vital and significant role to help Egyptian society overcome the current difficult conditions.
The Egyptian leader made his statements during an Iftar banquet held under his auspices to honor women after he announced 2017 as the “Year of Egyptian Women.”
During his speech, Sisi expressed his deep respect for Egyptian women's resilience.
“The Egyptian woman, unlike in many countries around the world, and due to the difficult circumstances of Egypt, endures so much. In fact, when we were on the economic reform procedures over the past two years, or longer, I knew that in every house, I, or rather Egypt, had a prop,” Sisi said in the video.