Starting Over… In Egypt?

February 11, 2010

Egyptian wives prefer Abuse than Divorce

As Egypt is an Islamic country, marriage and divorce submit to Islamic laws as they’ve been called.
The fact that this religion is meant to provide safety to women and guarantees all women’s rights is not strong enough to provide them with safe divorces. I have searched the law and searched those rules and I finally came up with an unpleasant conclusion: “The law is irrelevant to Islam, they are made by men, to serve men.”

Most Egyptian women prefer to stay in unhealthy marriages, and to raise their children in a corrupt atmosphere and perhaps even violent than to be divorced. The reason is clearly that a woman in Egypt has no second chance and starting over in this country is almost impossible for a woman depending on her husband.

A Muslim wife has the right to divorce her husband for any reason making her uncomfortable. Islamic law called Khul’ was once described as the easiest way for a woman to walk out of an unhappy marriage, or her free ticket to freedom and independence. However, Khul’ is a kind of divorce which requires a woman to abandon all her rights, to give her husband everything that he had given her such as cars, houses, gold, gifts – literally everything –  and to walk away empty handed with nothing to start over with. Khul’ became a man’s easiest way to walk out of a marriage without losing a dime, without worrying later about any of his ex wife’s rights.
Even though Islam directly orders husbands to let go of their wives and to not “hold them” when they seek divorce and to also give them their rights, husbands do make it harder on their wives to walk out with their chins high.
Most men who feel offended and rejected by their wives shoot back by making their lives even more miserable to the extent that they drive those women to start the khul’ process, regardless how humiliating it is for a man to be rejected, denied and given his “things” back for the sake of a wife’s freedom, men prefer to be cut lose this way than to be committed to the normal divorce expenses and to give their wives their financial rights.  
Nonetheless, desperate Egyptian wives choose khul’, they choose to walk out with nothing but a damaged and a scared broken woman although they are aware of their losses and they are aware that they do have rights to be taken but they simply prefer to abandon everything, to leave everything behind for the sake of their freedom and their peace of mind, and to even start over from below scratch.

Other women who are aware of this fact can’t start over and have nothing to start over with. There are no shelters in Egypt for beaten women and their children. There is no place to hide from a dangerous man, and there is nowhere to stay until a divorced woman can heal and start over, except her parents’ place or a friend’s place.
A woman who has nowhere to go deliberately chooses to remain married to an abusing man than to find herself out in the street with absolutely nothing to live on.

This is not the only reason why a married woman bears an unhappy marriage. The law also gives the husband full custody of the children once his ex wife remarries.
I have searched that rule and I tried to relate it in any possible way to Islam and it is absolutely irrelevant.
The reason why a father has the right to keep the children once their mother remarries is that the existence of a stepfather is dangerous for the kids. Especially for a daughter, her living with a strange man is unacceptable and threatening.
According to Islam though, a stepfather, the strange man, becomes what is called in Islam a “mehrem” to the daughter. A “mehrem” is a man which can not threaten a woman, a man who can protect her and a man who can take her out and help her out, so basically a woman should be safe with him, the “mehrem” is normally the father, the brother, the uncle, the grandfather, the nephew, the grandson etc – those men who can’t have a sexual relation with the woman- and finally, the “mehrem” is also the stepfather once married to her mother.

Based on this fact, a stepfather can’t be considered as a threat to a daughter once married to her mother, he can’t even marry the daughter after divorcing her mother so there is no point in keeping her safe from him. I still wonder what the law is based on now that the kids are safe with a stepfather, Islamic wise.
On the other hand, if the existence of a strange man in the house is to threaten the children’s safety, why doesn’t the existence of a strange woman in the house threaten them too, such as a stepmother?
In fact, a stepfather hardly deals with the children and he has no obligations toward them. Unlike the stepmother which is a housewife who’s in charge of the housework and of taking care of the kids. In other words, a stepmother deals with the children more than their father actually does, by law, she replaces the real mother and takes her responsibilities and plays her role.
Because by law, this is safer the children… somehow…

The law however gives the father or the ex husband, again, full control of his ex wife’s life even after divorce. Once a divorced woman decides to remarry, she faces a hard choice between her children and her new husband.

Another reason keeps abused women with their abusing husbands which is the lack of trust. I’ve spoken to many hurt wives wishing for their husbands’ death but not wishing for divorce. The words “I can’t leave him, he’s a bastard” echoed in my ears for so long and they sadly made sense to me after realizing what this corrupt system is consisted of.
Once divorce takes place and a mother has custody of her children until they reach the age where they can choose whom to live with, most ex husbands spend less money on the children and finances get worse.
A man’s pride is safe and if he fails to keep his power over his wife, he still finds a way to make her life miserable through their own children. Cases of this kind fill court rooms yet no results had brought peace back to a divorced mother and her children. The father doesn’t spend enough money on the children, thus they don’t fulfill all their needs, not as they used to when the family was all together.
Courts need documents to prove that the father makes enough money to spend a certain amount on the children, it takes even years to present those to court and to get a court order to get enough money from the ex husband to cover the children’s expenses.
Wives fear to take their kids a few steps lower – financially- and to make them go through hard times until such problems which are based on revenge and a man’s ego to be solved.
Also, ex husbands refuse to pay what they used to pay for the kids as they don’t trust their ex wives to spend the money where it needs to be spent.
Many men told me that they purposely reduced the amount of money they sent to their ex wives for their children because “she did it, she brought it on to herself and to her kids, it was her choice.”
It seems that most men still believe that they have the right to punish their women whether they were married to them or not.

Finally, such cases are not the trend in this country for I have met other people who managed to raise healthy children after divorce, some people which I can call “exceptions”.
Still, the fact that the system lacks correct rules and laws to guarantee a whole family’s sanity is the problem which threatens all houses. Those who don’t know what shall happen if divorce ever takes place wouldn’t risk it and so they choose to live caged in miserable marriages just because the law doesn’t show them any kind of a bright future after divorce. Not one single law guarantees the mother or the children’s safety, thus, the decision remains suspended for years, once taken it is considered as taking fatal risks, but it is hardly ever made due to the fear of the unknown future and of the unpredictable reaction of a rejected man’s anger.


The Boundaries Between Light & Dark

February 10, 2010

In Egypt, known as a conservative country, women’s lives are controlled by regulations which were once meant to keep them safe. Blindly, women had surrendered to those regulations limiting their feelings, powers, intelligence and experience to finally become captured in what they all call “traditions”.

In Egypt and all other Muslim countries, a girl has to marry with her father’s permission, if not the father then the brother or the uncle, in other words, a man is in charge.
Remaining a virgin until her wedding night, a woman is not only a virgin sex wise, in fact, a young woman is supposed to be inexperienced in most fields of social life and especially in relationships with the opposite sex. Thus, a woman steps into marriage as a clueless and an innocent child who is suddenly expected to take responsibility of a whole family.
Even though young girls have managed to break the rules which had been imposed by the society as they’ve tried to have relations – not necessarily sexual- with men in secret, they are still inexperienced as they lacked guidance, good advice and knowledge.
Due to the fact that a relation between a young man and a young woman was always described as shameful, girls chose to live those experiences in the dark, far from all eyes, only shared with friends from the same age, with the same poor knowledge and naivety. Due to the same fact, sex education was also banned and considered as a prohibited topic.

Once a woman with such a weak base steps into the new life style of marriage, she becomes absolutely shocked and expected to suddenly grow up and act like an adult, in the society, and in bed.
In other words, the image of the fairytale fades away and leaves her harshly hurt and disappointed once she faces the truth about her marital life.

The moment a girl kisses her virginity goodbye and becomes a woman, everything which she had learned changes into an opposing one. Long ago, when she was little, she was ordered to be quiet and descent. Sex was an issue which was forbidden to be even spoken of and learned. Clueless, ignorant, scared and confused, the polite girl is suddenly expected in no time to grow up and flourish as a woman.
Those expectations can be gathered in a few points which reveal the birth of a gap between her teenage life and her life as a wife. An Egyptian female lives more than one life and becomes more than one person throughout the years. Not only her character changes due to circumstances and age, but also, the basics she has learned in her childhood, the concepts she had been fed and the manners.   

–          From a polite quiet girl demanded to submit to her parents in everything to a woman standing her ground, proving herself and being in charge.

–          From an inexperienced virgin who barely got the chance to get to know what it’s like to be with a man, to talk to him, to understand him and to sleep with him, to an understanding and a supporting partner to a man and also a whore in bed.

–          From a shy and conservative girl hiding under her parents’ wings, to a courageous and a daring female facing real life, responsibility, and finally, struggling to fill the spaces without a clue in order to fill a mysterious gap between herself and her man.

–          As for the sexual life, she turns from an innocent, blind and even ignorant girl, to a real woman fully aware of her and her partner’s needs, and also capable of expressing those needs in the right way.

–          In one word, in no time, she’s converting from zero to hero. Without a clue except her parents’ opinions, those parents whom had learned exactly what they taught her…

Under those circumstances, no woman survives the marital shock, or the feeling that she’s carrying the weight of the world upon her shoulders.
Education in Egypt which is somehow described by Egyptians as open-minded, is still trapped in the old traditions while being exposed to many attracting ideas and ways of life due to the unlimited access to the western world. Somehow, Egyptians desire to be free, yet they fear change and thus, they still teach their children, us, to burry ourselves under layers of the dust of the ancient Egyptian traditions.
This generation, which is still ours, is torn between what we’ve been taught in the past and what we’re exposed to in the present and also what we should teach our own children to face the future. Which way do we go?

Even though many Egyptians are aware of their marital problems and how strongly related they are to the old traditions, they are still in denial that those traditions – such as preventing relationships between boys and girls, women and men – are the main roots to the problems they could have spared just by abandoning those traditions.
Never had I encouraged girls to have sex before marriage or to turn into cheap pieces of meat available to every teenager, however, I do encourage parents to teach their daughters how to deal with boys, how to take care of themselves and to give them the freedom to try to live in the light, to make mistakes to learn and to seek advice from the right people, instead of doing it all on their own, in the dark and to finally learn it the hard way.

Parental guidance needs to open its doors in ALL fields to children including relationships between boys and girls. Let them learn, let them know what to expect instead of hiding them and over protecting them to finally watch them crying in shock and fear once they grow old enough to start living their lives on their own.