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Egypt: Ministerial Resolution Regulating the Marriage of Egyptian Women to Foreigners

(Feb. 11, 2016) In December 2015, the Egyptian Minister of Justice issued Ministerial Regulation No. 9200 of 2015 to regulate the registration process for marriage contracts between Egyptian women and foreign men. The new Regulation relates to Law No. 103 of 1976 on the same subject. (Ministerial Regulation No. 9200 of 2015, 278 AL WAQA’A AL MASRYIA [EGYPTIAN AFFAIRS, published as an appendix to Egypt’s official gazette] (Dec. 8, 2015) (in Arabic).)

Article 1 of the new Regulation, the sole article in the legislation, stipulates that in order to register the marriage contract, if the foreign husband is 25 years older than his Egyptian wife, he must create a certificate of deposit in the amount of 50,000 Egyptian pounds (about US$6,400) under the wife’s name. (Id. art. 1 at p. 8.)

Reactions to the Regulation

Many human rights organizations and activists oppose the new Regulation, claiming that it essentially permits human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Thanaa al-Saeid, a member of the National Council for Women, criticized the Regulation by stating that it only allows Egyptian women to be perceived as an expensive commodity in the trafficking market. Regardless of the amount paid by the foreign men as required by the Regulation, al-Saeid argues, it promotes short-term marriages.  (Sonia Farid, Does Egypt’s New Tourist Marriage Law Really ‘Protect Women?, AL-ARABIYA (Jan. 18, 2016).)

Nehad abu al Qumsan, a women’s rights activist, stated that foreign men enter such marriage contracts to prevent any legal problems, because, in some cases, one girl can be married off two or more times in less than a month. (Id.)

Hoda Badran, the Director of the Union for Arab Women, also criticized the concept of setting an amount of money to legalize the marriage. She stated that it is a “useless approach” that fails in protecting the rights of women or in reducing the number of those marriages. Badran also said that for many foreign men (especially from the Gulf States), 50,000 Egyptian pounds is actually a pittance, with some of them paying this amount for a few dinner outings. (Id.)

In response to the criticism, Hamdi Moawad, an Egyptian Ministry of Justice spokesman, stated that the new Regulation not only sets an amount of money to be paid to the Egyptian wife, but also requires the foreign husband to submit documents from his embassy that contain information about him, his income, and his marital status before he can be granted a marriage license. Moawad claimed that these requirements will protect the wife’s rights. (Egyptian Marriage Law Called “Legalized Prostitution,” Stowe LL.P website (Jan. 19, 2016).)