Reforming Family Laws to Promote Progress in the Middle East and North Africa


Family law
Middle East
North Africa

How to Cite

Moghadam, V. M., & Roudi-Fahimi, F. (1). Reforming Family Laws to Promote Progress in the Middle East and North Africa. Al-Raida Journal, 66-73.


The issue of women's rights is gaining prominence in policy debates, as pressure for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) continues to grow.
Area experts contend that a larger role for women in the economy and society is vital to the region's progress. But women in MENA still face gender discrimination that prevents them from reaching their potential, despite their impressive gains in education and health.


Nabil Khoury and Valentine M. Moghadam, eds., Women and Development in the Arab Region (London: Zed Books, 1995); and Massoud Karshenas, “Structural Obstacles to Economic Adjustment in the MENA Region: The International Trade Aspects,” in The State and Global Change: The Political Economy of Transition in the Middle East and North Africa, ed. Hassan Hakimian and Ziba Moshaver (Surrey, England: Curzon Press, 2001): 59-80.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Arab States, Arab Human Development Report: Towards Freedom in the Arab World (New York: UNDP, 2004).

World Economic Forum, “Interview – Women Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap,” accessed online at, on Aug. 16, 2005.

World Bank, Gender and Development in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA): Women in the Public Sphere (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2004): xii and xiii.

United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Arab States Regional Office, Progress of Arab Women 2004 (Amman, Jordan: UNIFEM, 2004): 3.

See Naila Kabeer, “The Conditions and Consequences of Choice: Reflections on the Measurement of Women's Empowerment,” Discussion Paper No. 108 (Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, 1999); and Naila Kabeer, “Resources, Agency, Achievements: Reflections on the Measurement of Women's Empowerment,” in Discussing Women's Empowerment-Theory and Practice, ed. Birgitta Sevefjord, et al., accessed online at, on Nov. 12, 2004.

Valentine M. Moghadam and Lucie Senftova, “Measuring Women's Empowerment: Women's Participation and Rights in Civil, Political, Economic, Social, and Cultural Domains,” in International Social Science Journal 57, no. 184 (2005): 389-412.

United Nations Statistics Division, Millennium Development Indicators Database, accessed online at, on Aug. 19, 2005.

See Abdullahi An-Naim, Islamic Family Law in a Changing World (London: Zed Books, 2002). In Israel, family law is based on the Jewish Halacha. In Lebanon, there are 15 personal status codes for the 18 recognized ethnic-religious communities, including Christian ones. In Muslim-dominant countries, non-Muslim communities are exempt from Islamic family law and family matters are governed by religious codes supervised by churches. Thus, Catholics cannot divorce, because their

churches do not allow it.

Amira al-Azhary Sonbol, Women of Jordan: Islam, Labor, and the Law. (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003): 89-99.

Valentine M. Moghadam, Modernizing Women: Genderand Social Change in the Middle East (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003).

Women's Learning Partnership, “Morocco Adopts Landmark Family Law Supporting Women's Equality,” accessed online at, on July 13, 2004.

Women's Learning Partnership, Morocco Adopts Landmark Family Law; and Fatima Sadiqi and Moha Ennaji, “Feminist Activism and the Family Law: The Gradual Feminization of the Public Sphere in Morocco,” Journal of Middle East Women's Studies 2, no. 2 (forthcoming 2006).

Mona Zulficar, “New Signs of Progress for Women in Egypt,” Women Living Under Muslim Laws (Feb. 12, 2004), accessed online at, on Jan. 9, 2006.

Rebecca Torr, “‘Nationality for Children’ Campaign is Stepped Up,” Women Living Under Muslim Laws (April 11, 2005), accessed online at, on Jan. 10, 2006.


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