Hit TV drama sparks calls for reform of Egypt’s oppressive guardianship law | Women’s rights and gender equality

Two Egyptian MPs have called for a review of the country’s guardianship law, prompted by the success of a TV drama broadcast during Ramadan.

On Thursday, Amira El Adly and Mohamed Ismail submitted separate requests to the speakers of the house of representatives and to the justice minister to examine the law that critics say unfairly impacts women and harms families.

Under the law, when a father dies, legal guardianship over any of his children under the age of 18 and their inheritance goes to their paternal grandfather or to a guardian nominated by the father – leaving the mother with no say.

The 15-episode drama, Under Guardianship, which began on April 7 and airs its final episode on Friday, follows a mother of two as she struggles to maintain her life after the death of her husband. In the series, the protagonist, played by Mona Zaki, discovers she no longer has control over her husband’s fishing boat – her only source of income – leaving her struggling to pay rent. She also finds out that the law gives her father-in-law the right to take her children out of school without her permission.

In a speech to parliament, Ismail requested a committee is formed “to explore and confront the legislative impact” of the 70-year-old law, which creates obstacles for women and does not reflect “modern developments”.

El Adly asked the justice minister to brief parliament on the issue. She cited numerous complaints she had received from constituents who had been affected by the law. “We have long had it in mind to propose amendments to this law,” she said. “But with the momentum created by the TV show Under Guardianship and the current focus on the issue, we decided to act and submit legislative amendments.”

This week, the National Council for Women in Egypt praised the show for highlighting the issue of children’s education after the death of a father. “Educational guardianship is one of the most important issues for Egyptian women mentioned in personal status laws, particularly legal procedures in matters of guardianship,” the group said on Facebook.

In 2021, another Ramadan series sparked debate about women’s rights in Egypt with its depiction of marital rape. The show, Newton’s Cradle, led to calls for the explicit criminalization of marital rape in Egypt, with at least one survivor sharing her experience on social media.

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