About ten men gathered on Tuesday in front of the Cabinet offices to protest the law which grants mothers child custody in cases of divorce. Rami Imam, a Television director, says fathers are allowed only three hours a week with their children when the mother has custody.
The men standing held a banner reading “Egyptian men’s revolution for changing family laws”. Walid Zahran, a lawyer and the founder of the Egyptian Men’s Revolution Movement, says they are planning on setting up an NGO to defend men’s rights and to fight for changing the family laws which only benefit women when it comes to child custody.
Imam, a divorced father himself, says the law automatically gives custody to the mother until the child reaches the age of 15. Meanwhile, the father is only allowed to see his child once every week and for only three hours in a public place. “Neither his grandfather, grandmother, uncles or aunts are allowed to be there at the meeting or any of his half siblings, if any, which practically means the child is completely cut off from his father’s family,” says Imam.
The men who participated in the demonstration expressed anger at the law which they believe does not allow men to practice their role as fathers in case of divorce. One demonstrator objected saying “the child is only influenced by the mother, since she is the only one around; what could the father say or do with his child in three hours?”
The demonstrators believe that the family law favours women over men and demand that the women only get child custody until the age of 7 for boys and 9 for girls as the case was before 2005, when the law changed to rise the age to fifteen. Moreover, men object that the law gives custody priority to the maternal grandmother or maternal aunts before the father in case the mother remarries or cannot take custody, preferring custody to any woman within the mother’s family over the father.
The demonstrators have filed a complaint to interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf who said will look into their case.
The men said they will be staging another demonstration on 7July at the ministry of justice to object to the current family law and to the justice minister that men from different governorates are planning to head to Cairo and join the protest.