Alimony insurance is not new. Insurers in many countries, including the U.S., already offer this type of policy. However, Egypt may become the first country to make it mandatory. Specifically, the proposed legislation would require husbands to pay a compulsory divorce insurance premium.
Once a country with a low divorce rate, the African nation has seen a spike in the number of divorces over the last few years. Officials have also observed that a large number of husbands, traditionally the breadwinners in Egypt, refuse to pay alimony to their former spouses. Drafted by the Financial Regulatory Authority, the new law was created to shield women and children in the event of a financially devastating split.
The new legislation would allow insurance companies to determine the applicable premium based on the couple’s assets and income. After it is approved, any man looking to get married in Egypt would have to make an initial payment to secure an insurance policy before signing a marriage contract.
The Financial Regulatory Authority (“FRA”) said in a statement that they are preparing a financial analysis to determine the fees for the proposed alimony insurance policy. This determination will be made in collaboration with other agencies and after analyzing Egypt’s marriage and divorce statistics.
According to the FRA’s vice-chairperson, the policies will be beneficial for women, who now have to fight for alimony in court. “Ex-wives shall receive insurance benefits immediately after getting divorce, all at once or in installments, without waiting for court verdicts. This not bias to women, but for the sake of society,' the official said in a statement.
Parliament has, so far, shown mixed reactions to the proposed law, which includes over 20 other compulsory insurance propositions. Opposing parliament members claim that the diversity of Egyptian society in terms of religious beliefs and income levels will make the application of the proposed rules nearly impossible.
Because the law has the potential of making marriage more costly, many fear that marriage rates might decline after its approval. For Fay'aa Fahim, a member of parliament, the mandatory insurance policies will likely protect women and children but may create an unwanted burden for poor people who want to get married. Parliament member Amna Nosseir, on the other hand, referred to the drama of divorced Egyptian women as a “social tragedy.”
Perhaps one thing we would not find in the West is the Egyptian’s government’s plan to reduce the rate of divorce through an educational campaign. According to local scholars, people may be getting divorced too often because they do not know what marriage entails. Thus, several programs have been implemented at schools and universities to explain the intricacies of married life.
For Nermin Abu Salem, an activist who fights for the rights of divorced and widowed women, Egyptian traditions establish that men must “spend on their families,” but women are often unprotected following divorce. “This policy will protect the rights of [divorced] women who are often responsible for raising their children. . . without a stable source of income or housing,” Abu Salem explains.
Other proposed measures to protect divorced women include toughening the law against men who fail to pay alimony. Currently, this can lead to a month in jail. The government has proposed to extend the maximum sentence to a year, with the addition of a fine. Another measure proposed by the government is to end the current practice of “verbal divorce,” by which a man can end his marriage to a woman by simply telling her about his wish to do so.
In a context of austerity measures and financial hardship, some politicians and activists fear that the proposed legislation may dramatically impact the lower classes, making marriage virtually impossible for those who cannot afford to pay insurance premiums, thus increasing inequalities in a very divided society.