Saturday, May 03, 2008

Storm Track Intimidation: Muslim Shame - Urfi Marriages

It’s simply amazing the moral contortions devout Muslims will do to adapt to human behavior. But this time, the jig is up. Secularism to the rescue!

In the back rooms of trinket shops, hidden in the snaking alleyways of Cairo, licences for love are signed, sealed – and sold.

Young, middle-class Egyptians are buying so-called "urfi", informal marriage contracts, in growing numbers to get around religious strictures against having pre-marital sex.

Without documentation it is almost impossible for couples to live together or stay in the same hotel room, and the whiff of impropriety can bring down the wrath of parents, friends and neighbours.

Unless you have a license – one night stands are out.

Now Egyptian legislators are preparing to outlaw the contracts and impose fines or jail sentences on the couples involved, and on anyone who acts as a witness. The government fears that urfi marriages have become the country's equivalent of common-law marriage, while conservatives warn that the practice is against Egyptian morals and
senior clerics say it is irreligious.

Hey – let’s hear it for some sane clerics.

The contracts offer the promise of marriage according to the teachings of God and the Prophet Mohammed and once one is bought – sometimes for as little as 50 Egyptian pounds, or around £5 sterling – a couple can effectively behave as if they are married.

However, as some couples admit, urfi marriage is not always taken seriously. "It's for sexual life or just for fun," said Sayeed, 30, a musician on his second such relationship, arranged through a lawyer friend.

Though it sounds like innocent fun, there are serious ramifications of such contracts.

There are cases where contracts are abused, often by wealthy men from Gulf countries who take a temporary "wife" for the duration of a holiday in Egypt, then dump her, leaving her in disgrace with her own family. Siham Ali, who runs a help hotline for these women, said: "There is still a taboo against this in society."

In the most serious cases, Ms Ali said, women who become pregnant are abandoned by their urfi spouses. Illegitimate children in Egypt are not eligible for birth certificates until adulthood unless their father applies for them, condemning them to a lifetime outside the education and health-care systems, and to later difficulties in finding work.

Once again, it’s the woman who gets the shaft – so to speak.

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  • "gets the shaft, so to speak" You slay me, WC.

    I had heard of 'muta' but had never heard of this urfi marriage. What they won't think of next...

    By Blogger Dinah Lord, at 8:35 AM  

  • I'm surprised that anyone is buying a contract for an urfi marriage. All that is needed is for the two parties to write a contract between themselves. There's no form required.

    By Anonymous PyramidView, at 9:54 AM  

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