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Paternity Test Scandalises Egyptian Culture


It was groundbreaking at the time – a paternity test is a rarity in Egypt, but one woman who took a man to court demanding a test brought Egyptian society to a standstill. The woman was Hind el-Hinnawy who filed a paternity suit against Ahmed el-Fishawy, a famous Egyptian actor. Ahmed denied the pair had ever had sex, but Hind el-Hinnawy pursued a DNA test to prove that he was indeed her daughter’s father.

Paternity Test Scandalizes Egypt

The Islamic religious and cultural traditions in Egypt have strict unwritten laws about sex before marriage, which goes some way in explaining the rarity of the paternity DNA test in the country. However, for the middle classes who had sex before marriage and found themselves pregnant, the woman would usually access an abortion, have an operation to replace her hymen and continue with the virgin-marriage myth. Hind el-Hinnawy refused to do so, and her demand for a paternity DNA test was considered a massive step forward for feminists in Egypt.

Paternity Test Shakes Society Taboos

The woman prompted a national debate when she filed a public paternity suit demanding the actor have a DNA test. The conservative values of the country dictate that sex outside marriage is shameful and casts dishonour on a woman and her family. So much so, that the father or brother of the woman in question could even be expected to murder their daughter or sister in order to cleanse the family and restore the family honour. But Hind el-Hinnawy’s father supported her court case and attempts to gain a paternity DNA test.

Paternity DNA Test Shock

The court case was groundbreaking, forcing Egyptian society to face up to a social taboo. Requesting DNA for a paternity test also rocked Egyptian society by setting an Egyptian legal precedent – DNA testing is rare and had never been used to prove paternity in court before. But many felt it was vital a DNA test went ahead and the taboos were broken. Tradition states sex requires marriage and marriage demands the man buy a home first and shower his wife to be with jewellery. The fact that many Egyptians simply can’t afford this route means ‘urfi’ marriages became common practice – where couples can marry in private with a contract they draft. It’s thought that urfi marriages allowed many men to conduct love affairs within Islamic law.

Scandal Reveals Depth of Prejudice

The rarity of such tests and the scandal the court case created in Egypt revealed the depth of prejudice against women who had sex outside of marriage. Many feminists believe that Egyptians would rather put up with the hypocrisy of urfi marriages then public disgrace. The psychological damage on women in the country is thought to be massive. The increased availability of a paternity test could help break down the taboos and discrimination of a society where women are considered as objects for sex, family and marriage, and not as citizens with rights.