Calls for Action to Criminalize Domestic Violence in Egypt

Marital Rape Under Spotlight Following Alleged Celebrity Case
Man Hitting Woman In Darkroom. (Getty)

Calls are emerging in Egypt to criminalize domestic violence, including marital rape, after several cases have recently been revealed.

The latest controversy over domestic violence erupted after a fashion designer posted a recording on her Instagram account in which she spoke about a marital rape of which she says she was a victim.

She hoped that raising this issue would lead to the enactment of a law criminalizing domestic violence. In the video recording, the designer did not name her ex-husband.

But after her speech aroused much controversy, her ex-husband responded in an Instagram story and denied the accusations and denounced the concept of marital rape.

He addressed his followers and posted that he and his family "have never heard of anything like this before.”

After her statements, the designer received great support from various celebrities, among others.

Testimonies of women who have been victims of domestic violence spread on social media, especially on pages that are concerned with supporting victims of harassment, rape and violence in all its forms.

In their testimonies, survivors talk about the long-term psychological effects of marital rape, in addition to the physical damage.

CRIMINALIZING THE PRACTICE

In a post on his social media accounts, controversial preacher Abdullah Rushdi described those denouncing marital rape as "affected by the West" and said that "refusing to have sexual intercourse with the husband without an excuse is forbidden.”

“The wife is cursed and her husband has the right to discipline her by beating her badly after preaching and abandoning her,” Rushdi said.

Moderate Muslim clerics say that those hardline preachers rely on hadiths which are “objectionable.”

In televised statements, Ahmed Karima, Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, described those preachers who agree with this opinion as “intruders to jurisprudential sciences.”

Karima said that "forcing the wife to have sexual intercourse is prohibited in Islamic sharia," and that "sexual and intimate intercourse between the husband and the wife must take place with full consent and emotional compatibility."

Karima refused to use the term “marital rape” and preferred to use "coercion of the wife into sexual intercourse."

Marital rape was described as violence and brutality in a statement by Al-Azhar on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in 2018.

The statement continued: "After this, is it reasonable for us to stand silent in front of any form of violence against women? Whether this violence is physical, sexual or psychological, in its various forms, such as beating, psychological abuse, marital rape, or killing women.”

“What rational mind accepts justifying violence in any form? What is the difference, then, between us and beasts that do not know a language and are not distinguished by reason, just as God distinguished man over his creatures with reason?”

For her part, the head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, Nehad Abu el-Qomsan, said in a video on her Facebook page that “anyone who rapes a woman under any justification is a criminal and sadist.”

Some commentators who are calling for the enactment of a law explicitly criminalizing marital rape wonder how to prove the truthfulness of the accusation of marital rape.

Many, including Abu el-Qomsan, responded to this question that forensic medicine would prove it.  “Forensic medicine in Egypt and the world relies on well-known methods to prove that a person has been raped,” she said.

TERMS NOT RECOGNIZED

Many women rights activists calling for the criminalization of marital rape say many people have never heard of the term.

They add that some of those people consider it “illogical” from their point of view, according to the prevailing ruling in Arab culture that sexual intercourse is one of the duties of a woman towards her husband that does not require thought or approval.

Meanwhile, Egyptian law does not explicitly mention marital rape in its chapters dealing with domestic violence, rape, or violence.

Article 267 of the Egyptian Penal Code states: “Whoever has intercourse with a female without her consent shall be punished with death or life imprisonment.”

“The perpetrator shall be punished with death if the victim has not attained the age of 18 years, or if the perpetrator is one of the victim’s family members, or one of those responsible for her upbringing or observation, or those who have authority over her, or if he was a paid servant with her or with those mentioned above.”

Egypt is not alone in omitting the specification of marital rape in its laws. The United Nations says in a report issued in April this year that 43 countries do not have any legislation dealing with the issue of marital rape.

The United Nations reported in 2019 that more than half of the countries in the world do not have laws explicitly criminalizing marital rape as based on the principle of consent.