New Publication: Pluralistic Family Law in Syria: Bane or Blessing?

Pluralistic Family Law in Syria: Bane or Blessing?
Family relations in Syria are governed by a plurality of personal status laws and courts. The different religious communities have the right to regulate their family relations according to their respective religious laws, most importantly in matters related to marriage and divorce. This plurality of laws creates a complex system of parallel and sometimes competing jurisdictions divided along denominational lines. This paper focuses on the merits and demerits of Syria’s pluralistic family law. It aims to show, first, how the Muslim faith is given preference over other religions in the field of personal status law. This becomes especially apparent in conversion (to Islam) cases. The author describes some of the detrimental consequences that this asymmetrical plurality can have on the lives of individuals. The paper then focuses on the versatility of the family law system, in particular on legal practices involving the retro-active registration of (customary) marriages and proofs of paternity. This legal flexibility offers ample opportunities for legal practitioners to find creative solutions to help out unwed mothers and their illegitimate children, as the author exemplifies with a case study. By discussing these two different but equally important legal practices, stemming from the plurality of Syria’s family legal system, the paper aims to show how this plurality can be used or work out in different ways, as a bane or a blessing in disguise.
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Stanislava Knezevic