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Hit TV Drama Sparks Calls for Reform of Egyptian Family Law

Egyptian MPs respond to public outcry following the success of the TV series "Under Guardianship."

Poster of Tahet El Wesaya Credits:

Two Egyptian Members of Parliament (MPs) have urged a review of Egypt's guardianship law in April 2023, citing the influence of a popular TV drama that aired during the holy month of Ramadan.

The lawmakers, Amira El Adly, and Mohamed Ismail, have separately submitted requests to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the justice minister to examine the law, which has faced criticism for its negative impact on women and families.

Under the current guardianship law, when a father passes away, legal custody of his children under the age of 21, as well as their inheritance, automatically transfers to the paternal grandfather or a guardian appointed by the father. Consequently, the mother is left with no decision-making power in such matters.

The 15-episode TV drama titled "Under Guardianship," which premiered on April 7, follows the journey of a mother of two as she grapples with the challenges of rebuilding her life after her husband's death.

The series, starring Mona Zaki, sheds light on the protagonist's struggles as she realises she no longer has control over her husband's fishing boat, her sole source of income. Additionally, she discovers that the law grants her father-in-law the authority to remove her children from school without her consent.

Poster of Tahet El Wesaya Credits:

During a parliamentary session, Mohamed Ismail proposed the formation of a committee to examine the "legislative impact" of the 70-year-old guardianship law, which he argued creates obstacles for women and fails to align with "modern developments." Amira El Adly, on the other hand, called on the justice minister to address the issue before parliament.

El Adly, who had received numerous complaints from affected constituents, stated, "We have long contemplated proposing amendments to this law. However, with the momentum created by the TV show ‘Under Guardianship' and the current attention on the issue, we decided to take action and submit legislative amendments."

The National Council for Women in Egypt commended the TV show for raising awareness about the issue of children's education following the death of a father. In a Facebook post, the organisation stated, "Educational guardianship is one of the most crucial issues for Egyptian women highlighted in personal status laws, particularly legal procedures regarding guardianship."

It is worth noting that in 2021, another Ramadan series titled "Newton's Cradle" ignited a national debate about women's rights in Egypt by tackling the sensitive topic of marital rape. The show's portrayal of the issue led to widespread calls for the explicit criminalization of marital rape in the country, with survivors sharing their experiences on social media.

The growing recognition and discussion of women's rights issues within popular media have been instrumental in mobilising public opinion and pressuring lawmakers to address long-standing legislative gaps.

As the TV drama "Under Guardianship" reaches its conclusion, the renewed focus on Egypt's guardianship law is expected to intensify, potentially paving the way for meaningful reforms that address the concerns raised by women's rights advocates and affected individuals alike.

In the following storymap, we go through a list of TV serials worldwide which have played a significant role in bringing political issues to the forefront, encouraging discussions on political reform, and fostering a greater understanding of the complexities of governance.


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