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Mother Love

A Forced Divorce in Damascus

Jessica Carlisle

The impact of kin during personal status cases is not anticipated by Syrian statute, although the influence of litigants' families in disputes is frequently acknowledged by the court. Although usually supportive of claims, kin can undermine the legal process by opposing litigants' strategies through threats to withdraw economic and social support or by asserting their authority to intervene on the litigant's behalf. Through observation and analysis of a recent arbitration session related to a request for a judicial divorce in Damascus I describe how the court is powerless to oppose the intervention of the wife's angry mother, although the final resolution appears to have been formulated within the parameters set by the legislation.

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Tal Meler

In the last three decades, Palestinian society within Israel has been undergoing changes in different spheres, with trends of change and preservation evolving simultaneously. Changes in the familial sphere include a rise in the divorce rate and, accordingly, in the number of single-parent families. Despite the increase in the number of single-parent family units headed by women, this pattern has barely gained legitimacy. As single mothers, divorced Palestinian women are subjected to considerable criticism and supervision on the part of their families. In this article I examine the reasons why Israeli-Palestinian women seek divorce, arguing that they reflect co-existing trends. While some reasons can be defined as traditional, others illustrate a process of change related to the adoption of values and images deriving from the Western romantic love ethos. The article is based on data gathered in semi-structured, in-depth interviews conducted and analyzed with a commitment to the principles of feminist research.

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Divorce as Process, Botswana Style

Customary Courts, Gender Activism and Legal Pluralism in Historical Perspective

Pnina Werbner and Richard Werbner

This article aims to unravel the complex negotiations surrounding property settlements and custody in cases of divorce in customary courts in Botswana today in the light of an earlier legacy of penalising divorce initiators. It argues that women’s attempts to get their husbands to initiate divorce proceedings can entangle women in lengthy negotiations and ultimately frustrate the aim of achieving a divorce. Repeated court hearings can last for years, we show. At the same time, in Botswana’s statutory courts today, an equal division of property irrespective of the causes of marital breakdown has become established practice. In the article, we aim to show that customary laws regarding property settlement in divorce have indeed changed, gradually adjusting to notions of equity in women’s rights in marriage, in response to a wider ideological, critical movement, even though chiefs or headmen presiding over customary courts do not always explicitly acknowledge this change.

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Khul‘ Divorce in Egypt

How Family Courts Are Providing a ‘Dialogue’ between Husband and Wife

Nadia Sonneveld

In the year 2000, Egyptian women were given the right to unilateral divorce through a procedure called khul'. Khul' became the source of much controversy in Egyptian society, and most judges interviewed by the author expressed a negative viewpoint when asked about it. Nevertheless, the introduction of the Family Court system in 2004, with the explicit aim of solving marital disputes through mediation and communication, has made possible a 'dialogue' between husband and wife in a khul' procedure. This applies even in situations where mediators and judges profess an unfavourable opinion of women who file for khul' divorce.

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Niki Megalommati

This article addresses the impact of family law on women during the Middle Byzantine period, 726–1204. Restricted to household roles, marriage provided betrothed women, wives, and mothers with certain legal protections. In the Middle Byzantine period conceptions and practices concerning betrothal, marriage, and dissolution of marriage were not consistent because both the church and the state determined sometimes contrasting rules and laws. The civil law protected women with respect to betrothal and marriage; pressure from the church, however, resulted in harsh laws concerning dissolution of marriage. Canon law nevertheless claimed that both sexes had quite identical legal rights in divorce, and women escaped from unhealthy marriages in certain circumstances. It seems that through its own legislation and its impact on civil law, the church enforced women’s position in marriage. At issue is whether this favorable treatment corresponded to social changes that improved the position of women in the Middle Byzantine era.

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Freedom from Religion in Israel

Civil Marriages and Cohabitation of Jews Enter the Rabbinical Courts

Zvi Triger

The only form of marriage that is recognized under Israeli law is religious marriage. Following the Supreme Court's ruling in the landmark 1963 Funk-Schlesinger case, Israeli authorities must register couples who marry abroad as married. In a 2006 decision, the Supreme Court held that the rabbinical court system has jurisdiction over the divorce of couples who marry civilly abroad and that it has exclusive jurisdiction over the dissolution of civil marriages of Jews residing in Israel. The Court's decision was based on Halachic principles and was pre-approved by a rabbinical court panel. However, rabbinical courts have been insisting on performing a full get (religious divorce) procedure even for civilly married couples. This article analyzes this phenomenon and speculates as to the reasons for and the direction of these developments.

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Yoav Mazeh

A principal conflict in Israeli family law concerns the notion of custody. Parents and the public at large perceive custody as a primary factor in the regulation of post-divorce families. According to current Israeli law, mothers tend to receive custody of children almost automatically. The recommendation of the Schnitt Committee to abolish the term 'custody' is thus perceived by many as a threat to mothers. This article shows, however, that the Israeli discourse over the concept of custody is fueled by a fundamental misunderstanding of the ramifications of this concept. The article explains the difference between the minor effects of the notion of custody in practice and the disproportional significance that is associated with this term in the public discourse. The article also discusses the reasons why public discourse has produced this gap.

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Lionel Blue

In this article, Lionel Blue describes the role played by the Beth Din, the Jewish religious court, of the UK Reform Jewish movement, of which he was the Convenor. He writes with humour of the way he tried to humanize what might otherwise be a strange and daunting experience for people. The court deals with conversion to Judaism, issues of Jewish status, legal matters associated with divorce. He describes the emphasis that has to be placed on supporting the individuals facing these deeply personal life-changing situations. Beyond the purely traditional legal issues and formality, greater attention and understanding should be given to the relationships people actually enter into today, and to the people themselves, their needs and their possibilities.

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David Hine and Davide Vampa

This chapter analyzes the power struggle inside the Popolo della Libertà

(PdL, People of Liberty), which reached a crisis in the summer of

2010, leading to the secession of about 10 percent of its parliamentarians

to form a new party, Futuro e Libertà per l’Italia (FLI, Future and

Freedom for Italy). First, it traces the process by which the new group

emerged, explaining in particular the personal tensions between Silvio

Berlusconi and Gianfranco Fini, which were the immediate cause. It

seeks to provide an actor-centered analysis of the motivations of those

who followed Fini into the new group at the parliamentary level, and

it provides some pointers to the probable impact of the split on the

PdL as an organization.

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Ziyodakhon Rasulova

With a focus on the Republic of Uzbekistan, this article aims to explain the enduring survival of the custom known as qalin (bride price, bride money), in spite of efforts to eliminate it in the past, and seeks to reveal the incomprehensible - even somewhat enigmatic - reasons for its present existence. Because this practice was burdensome for poor people, some attempts were made to abolish or replace it, for example, by having the bridegroom work instead of paying the qalin, by interchanging girls between two families or by having the bride's kinsmen cover the costs of the wedding. One custom even involved paying a qalin by instalments. As the article demonstrates, despite criticisms and its negative aspects, the qalin still has a place in the lives of Uzbeks.