Algerian Family Code
The Algerian Family Code (French Code de Famille, Arabic قانون الأسرة), enacted on 9 June 1984, specifies the laws relating to familial relations in Algeria. It includes strong elements of Sharia law, which have brought it the praise of some (eg Islamists) and the condemnation of others (eg secularists and feminists). Its critics particularly focus on its implications for women (who have less right to divorce than men, and who receive smaller shares of inheritance) and sometimes for apostates (who are disinherited, and whose marriages may be nullified.) President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has declared that it must be revised in the spirit of universal human rights and of the sharia. Reactions were mixed; for instance, Ms. Lachhab, of the Islamist El Islah party, declared that "We oppose these amendments which are contrary to Sharia, and thus to article 2 of the Constitution", whereas Nouria Hafsi of the pro-government RND declared "These timid amendments put forward a modern reading of the Sharia; the rights of women will finally be recognized by law." (El Watan, 10 October 2004.) As of early 2005, it has not been changed.
Marriage is defined as a legal contract between a man and a woman.
The legal age of marriage is 21 for a man, 18 for a woman; judges may in special cases allow earlier marriage.
A man may marry up to four wives; if so, he must treat them equally and inform them in advance, and they may demand a divorce.
Marriage requires the consent of both parties and a gift by the groom of a dowry to the bride, as well as the presence of the bride's father or guardian (wali) and of two witnesses. The father of the bride may block the marriage, although her guardian may not. The marriage must be registered before a notary or legal functionary.
Marriage is forbidden between close relatives by descent, marriage, or nursing: thus a man may not marry his mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, stepmother-in-law, or stepdaughter-in-law, nor may he marry anyone who suckled from the same woman as he did, or from whom he suckled. A man may not be married to two sisters simultaneously.
Marriage is also forbidden between a couple who have divorced each other for the third time, unless the wife has since been married to someone else.
A Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim man, and a marriage may be annulled on the grounds of the spouse's apostasy.
A husband is required to provide for his wife to the best of his abilities, and to treat his wives equally if he marries more than one. (The husband's not doing so is grounds for divorce.) A wife is required to obey her husband and respect him as head of the family, to bring up and nurse his children, and to respect his parents and relatives. (No penalties are stipulated for the wife not doing so.)
A wife has the right to visit her parents and to receive visits from them, and has complete rights over her own property.
Adoption is forbidden: a child may be brought up as part of the family, but must be considered the child of its natural parents, that is what islamic law calls Kafala.
The husband may divorce his wife at will; if he is judged to have abused this privilege, his wife may be awarded damages, and he must provide for his divorced wife and her children if she has no family to go to, unless she had previously divorced or was guilty of immorality. The wife may request a divorce if any of the following apply:
her husband has failed to provide for her;
her husband is impotent;
her husband has refused to have sex with her for over 4 months;
her husband has been condemned to a dishonorable imprisonment of over a year's length;
her husband has been absent for over a year without a good reason;
her husband has failed to fulfill his legal duties towards her;
her husband is guilty of grave immorality.
If she obtains the divorce, she must pay reparations not to exceed the value of the dowry, and may not remarry until three menstrual periods have elapsed, or, if pregnant, until her baby's birth.
In case of the father's absence or of divorce, custody of the child goes to his mother, or failing that his maternal grandmother or aunt, or failing that his father or paternal grandfather, or some other relative.
A child's guardian must bring the child up in the religion of the child's father.
A child brought up by a guardian attains independence at 10 (if male), or at marriage (if female).
The obligatory (fard) heirs include relatives by blood and relatives by marriage: the father, mother, paternal grandfather and grandmother, (paternal great-grandfather and great-grandmother, etc.), maternal grandmother (maternal great-grandmother, etc.), spouse, sibling, with portions varying according to Sharia.
The "universal" heirs include more distant relatives; they inherit only if there is something left over after the obligatory heirs have taken their share, or if there are no surviving obligatory heirs.
Apostates or excommunicated people are excluded from inheritance (vocation hereditaire, article 138)