Egyptian woman wins case against Islamic inheritance laws

Ayat Al Tawy , Tuesday 26 Nov 2019

Huda Nasrallah, a Christian, has been fighting for an equal share of her late father's estate

Huda Nasrallah AP

An Egyptian lawyer has said on Monday that she won a case that challenges the country’s Islamic inheritance laws, which mandate that male heirs inherit double the share of females.

Huda Nasrallah, a Christian, has over the past year been demanding that the property left by her late father be divided equally between her and her two brothers.

She is one of approximately 10 million Coptic Christians who live in Egypt, a predominantly Muslim country whose constitution dictates that Islamic sharia is the main source of legislation.

Islamic doctrine typically mandates that male heirs receive twice the share of female heirs.

But Nasrallah, a human rights lawyer, has built her case around an article in the 2014 constitution that says the respective doctrines of Egyptian Christians and Jews should be used to decide family law and inheritance cases that affect them.

Coptic Orthodox teaching specifies that inheritances should be divided fairly between heirs, regardless of sex.

Nasrallah's two brothers had testified that they wanted their father’s estate to be divided fairly between the three offspring, but the courts had twice ruled against them.

But this week, a higher court issued a final ruling in Nasrallah's favour.

"Finally a ruling was issued on my case for inheritance to be equally distributed between male and female heirs," Nasrallah said on Monday on Facebook.

Local courts that issue official inheritance declarations have continued to rule based on Islamic inheritance laws, with many Christian families deciding to settle inheritance matters outside the country's legal system.

"But now, courts can rule based on the Christian doctrine," Nasrallah said in TV comments following the ruling.

She had said that her move was not primarily about inheritance, but rather the right to be treated equally to her brothers.

Nasrallah confirmed that this week's ruling is the second of its kind in recent years, as a Cairo court had handed down a ruling in favour of a Coptic woman in a similar case in 2016.

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