Egyptian Women Appeal Sex-After-Death Law

Egyptian women urge the Islamist-dominated parliament not to pass a controversial law allowing a man to have relations with his dead wife.

Chana Ya'ar,

Young Arab women (illustrative only)
Young Arab women (illustrative only)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Egyptian women have urged the country's Islamist-dominated parliament not to pass two controversial laws on age at marriage and sex after death.

The two laws include provisions that would void the rights of women to obtaining education and employment due to religious standards. 

One of the laws would drop the minimum permissible age of marriage to age 14. The other would permit a husband to carry out conjugal relations with his wife within six hours following her death.

The latter issue was originally raised by Moroccan Islamic cleric Zamzami Abdul Bari in May 2011, according to the Al Arabiya pan-Arab news network. Bari was quoted as saying that marriage remains valid even after death – and that a woman could also claim the same right as a man in such a matter.

The news of the controversial legislation under consideration was reported last week by Egyptian columnist Amro Abdul Samea in the Egyptian Al Ahram newspaper. According to Samea, Dr. Mervat al-Talawi, head of Egypt's National Council for Women sent an appeal on the matter to Dr. Sa'ad al-Katatni, Speaker of the Egyptian People's Assembly.

A second journalist, TV anchor Jaber al-Qarmouty, commented on the “'Farewell Intercourse' draft law” after Samea's article was published, saying, “This is unbelievable. It is a catastrophe to give the husband such a right! Has the Islamic trend reached that far? Is there really a draft law in this regard? Are there people thinking in this manner?”

Since Islamists have taken over the Egyptian parliament in the past year, more moderate forces in the country have grown increasingly concerned over the future of women's rights in Egypt.  At present, Egyptian women retain the right to end unhappy or abusive marriages without interference from a husband, through the Khula – the Islamic right to divorce law, which grants men the right to terminate a marriage as well. Islamists in the Egyptian parliament also wish to cancel the law empowering women to use the Khula to end a bad marriage.