Mona Saleh


Personal status law reforms do not only manage relationships within the household, but they are also important political tools that the state has used to serve its interests. However, most of the covered studies on law and gender in Egypt deal with the state as if it is a clear term and a homogenous entity, which is not the matter as several theoretical studies on state show. Therefore, the main research question of this thesis grows out of this conceptual problematic, and it focuses on determining the main state actors that shaped personal status law reforms in Egypt, and the root causes behind their motivation to enact them. The thesis concludes that the elite, mainly lawyers, judges, the president, and the ruling party were the main actors in shaping and issuing these reforms. More importantly, this thesis argues that Egypt represents an interesting case as law is "nested within" politics. Personal status law reforms were essential tools in serving different political interests such as fighting colonization (during British colonialism), maintaining political stability within the society (Nasser era), adopting democratic reforms (Sadat period), and improving the image of the state internationally (Mubarak regime).


Law Department

Degree Name

LLM in International and Comparative Law

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2015

First Advisor

Terrell, Jennifer

Committee Member 1

Moussa, Jasmine


68 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Domestic relations -- Egypt.

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Domestic relations (Egyptian law)


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

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During my journey in writing this thesis, I owe a lot to a number of people who without their valuable support and assistance, I could not have completed my research. Jennifer Terrell, my thesis supervisor, provided me with a variety of books on state and gender, which enabled me to construct my theoretical framework. Besides, her meticulous reading made the thesis stronger. Also, the thesis reader Jasmine Moussa, provided me with important legal comments that contributed to the substance to the thesis. My Professor Mitchell Lasser at Cornell University profoundly shaped my thinking through his assigned readings, on the different factors as well as actors who affect the promulgation of law. I am especially indebted to my professors in the AUC Law Department, particularly: Professor Mina Khalil whose courses on Comparative Constitutions and Islamic Law broadened my understanding of the Egyptian constitutional court system and the complexity inherent in the interpretation of Islamic law; Professor Nesrine Badawi whose readings on human rights in the Middle East offered me a new perspective regarding women’s rights in the region; Professor Jason Beckett whose class on International Human Rights Law provided me with new insight on the effect of the colonial discourse on the promulgation of laws; and Diana Van Bogaert who never ceased to provide me with support and help whenever I asked for it. She is the best academic advisor I have ever met in my life. Special dedication to my dear professors Hanan Kholoussy, Joel Benin, Zachary Lockman, Marize Tadros and Mohammed Serag. I also want to thank my dear friends Sarra Moneir who helped me a lot in framing the theoretical framework and the research question of the thesis; Aya Safwat who provided me with important comments on editing, and more importantly, she tolerated my anxieties when I became very tense during the various stages of the writing process; and Leena Azzam, with whom I spent a lot of time in exchanging views and books on gender and law. Sarra, Aya and Leena are good examples of Egyptian female figures who are well-educated, decent and supportive. Thank you for being in my life. Most of all, I am fully indebted to my parents who never hesitated in supporting me financially and morally. I would like to thank them for everything they have done for me.