Marriage is not a contract paper, Reflections on Hind Al Hinnawy's Success
I was so happy to learn that Hind Al Hinnawy was able to prove her two-year old daughter’s kinship to her dad who refused to recognize her after two-year struggle in Egyptian courts.
The conflict between Hind and the father of her daughter, actor Ahmed Al Fishawy, had to go through the court so that the little Lina can be recognized by her society and by her country as an Egyptian-born citizen. The mom was not able to issue her a birth certificate which means she has no place in the education system needless to say in the whole country. Hind and Ahmed were married by an Urfi marriage contract. This marriage is not recognized by our legal system and it does not protect the right of the wife. In most of the cases, young couples use this Urfi marriage in Egypt as permission for a sexual relationship. Other instances, married men used it to marry other women without telling their first wives. It is not socially acceptable but it exists. There are 14,000 children in Egypt that are in Lina’s shoes before the court’s ruling. There are so many children born outside the legal wedlock form and are paying a dear price for something they did not commit.
I am not going to go through the details of the Urfi marriage which is based in an Islamic jurisdiction which could be one reason why it is causing all this confusion.
Hind and Ahmed according to press interviews fell in love and her parents did not agree on their marriage. They had a secret relationship away from the intrusive society. It is normal that people fall in love and have a relationship but this is concept does not exist in Egypt because relationships are only marriages. This system serves men best.
In a patriarchal society like Egypt, women who agree to be in a relationship with a man who is not a husband are considered sinners or whores. Sexual relationships outside wedlock are not acceptable for any reason. An Egyptian woman has to remain virgin until her wedding day. Her virginity must be declared by her husband to win the honor of the society respect. It might sound like we are in the 18 century but this is the truth. Though in reality this might not be the truth, many go into secret relationships in Egypt without informing the parents, families, friends or anyone in the entire society or end up in an Urfi marriage. Sex is considered a stigma for any woman who attempts to have a relationship before marriage.
In western societies, many couples decide to have a family and kids without the damn marriage contract paper. The man does not run away from his woman, family or kids because he had a relationship with a sinner woman. There is a moral responsibility before the legal one. Some western couples decide on having children before thinking of marriage. This is considered totally Haram (forbidden) according to all norms in Egypt. Marriage contracts guarantee this social ownership of a person, so that man can spend money without waste and recognize his children. It is true that generally it organizes the relationship but it does not add the value of the moral and ethical obligation of the individual. And that’s why a child like Lina had to stay unrecognized for two years. Her mom has to have her personal life exposed and in some instances attacked for two years.
Most of the marriages in Egypt happen with the blessings of a religious cleric. Civil marriages are not so common, though they do happen. Marriages that happen within the context of the religious institution observe the post-marriage obligations but does not create an atmosphere or encourage individuals to take moral responsibilities towards each other. Instead, in some instances, married, separated or divorced men find loopholes to evade responsibility. I am not only talking about financial obligation which could be a must, if there are children included, but there are other responsibilities like learning how to end up relationships in a civilized manner without having to resort to courts, making sure that children grow up healthy without causing psychological damage.
In our popular Egyptian movies, women who have children outside the wedlock are being rejected by the person they fell in love with, his family, her family and the society looks at her as a whore as if she is the sole responsible. She was alone by herself in this relationship. And the man usually tries to wash his hands clean by marrying the virtuous innocent woman who is usually chosen by his family, believing that he is correcting his mistake.
I hope that Hind and Lina will be a role model for not burying heads in the sands. Her family played a great role in supporting her rather than putting her in exile to avoid the society.
Most of the Egyptians I know showed support and sympathy and they were so happy to learn about the court ruling in favor of Hind and Lina which means that despite the well-established rules in favor of the man in Egypt, people are favoring human just values.
It is a story of success for standing for our rights regardless of all the social religious norms and standards that give more privileges to men over women for no good reason.
And, for your information, Fishawy was playing the preacher in some Islamic TV shows and yet he was denying his daughter the right to live as an equal child to all her peers. Despite his religious pretence no one I know sympathized with him, in fact they despised him.
Marriage at the end is not a contract paper, it is a commitment that bears the individual’s moral responsibility towards her/his partner.