The Egyptian government is conjuring up one more way to fuck the women of their country. Literally. To me, this isn’t surprising; it’s expected. One of my first experiences with women’s rights in Egypt was in the early 90s before my family immigrated to the United States. I was a few months shy of eight years old, and we lived across the street from a whore. A tart. A floozy. A jezebel. Take your pick. Of course this whorish, floozy, tart cocktail, was raped, and her sexual immorality had shamed her family—even if she had no choice in said sexual immorality.
I asked my mother about the girl’s fate. To which she replied, “She can take him to court to get married.”
“What if she doesn’t want to marry him?” I questioned. This confused my mother, “Why would she take him to court then? What else would she want from him?” She replied as if she was asking, “Why don’t you pass the falafel to your brother?” or “Are you dressed for school yet?” This law, much like the majority of Egyptian laws, was set by Islamic precedents. And we weren’t even Muslim. We, like our neighbor, were Coptic Christians—less than 10 percent of the Egyptian population. None of this fazed my mother. She didn’t fight the backwards ideologies, and my neighbor didn’t fight her rapist in court.
What’s the point? In Egypt, a woman was only as good as her hymen. So, naturally, eight-year-old me wondered what it would be like to marry my own rapist. I first weaved romantic fantasies about him. Maybe he really loved me, so he forced himself on me so we could spend the rest of our lives together? Maybe he was really lonely and this was his only ticket to companionship? Maybe we would be happy? After my demented justifications I spun around Middle Eastern Prince Charming, I ultimately decided to kill my phantom rapist with a poisoned onion.
By 1999, the Egyptian cabinet voted to repeal the law on rape, which completely exempted a rapist from punishment if he married his victim, after increased pressure from women’s rights groups. Although I’m told this is a bullshit formality. Actually, I’m told sexual assault trials in Egypt are a bullshit formality. Less than a year ago the Egyptian military detained female protestors in Tahrir Square for “Virginity Tests” and then threatened them with prostitution charges. Senior officials initially defended these “tests” and the military’s actions. They later apologized, but no member of the military was ever tried for sexual assault.
All of this history culminated in a phone conversation I had with my mother on Wednesday night.
“Did you hear the latest?” she asked me.
“Parliament is discussing a bill that would allow a man to have one final farewell with his wife after she dies,” she told me.
“What does that mean?” I asked her.
“He would be allowed to lay down with her one last time,” she explained. I’m 27 years old but I’m unmarried, so my mother often tangos with me around the word “sex.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“A man would be able to engage in his [pause] marital right up to six hours after his wife dies,” she explained, this time with the same tone I imagine she would use to describe the end of the world.
On Wednesday, Egyptian media reported that the Egyptian parliament will introduce the “farewell intercourse law” so a man could have sex with his dead wife up to six hours after her passing. Last year, Zamzami Abdul Bari, a Moroccan cleric, sparked debate about the issue, arguing that a marriage was still valid after death. Egypt’s National Council for Women is already campaigning against the change. Some Egyptian citizens are outraged.
But in the Middle East, religion rules all. Religion justifies all. I imagine this Moroccan cleric read in the Koran about the Prophet Muhammad lying with a woman in her coffin, interpreted the passage literally, and proposed this law. All of the issues surrounding modern-day Egypt become secondary while the government promotes necrophilia vis-à-vis a religious justification. With problems like poverty, overpopulation, illiteracy, failing health care, and not to mention the, uh, social revolution, the Egyptian parliament should absolutely spend its time on a post-mortem sexy-time piece of legislation.
This is how I came to wonder what it would be like for my imaginary husband to fuck my dead body.
Hour One: I died young. I assume a combination of bad news (say, some new, stupid, religion-justified law, like my future children would now have to serve in an Egyptian circus slavery ring) and years of too much butter and nicotine would result in my sudden collapse. (I don’t have all the details. I was too busy dying and all.) A hearse transports me to a nearby facility. This is no ordinary facility. A brilliant entrepreneur lego’d this place between a morgue and a hospital after the “farewell intercourse law” passed. The facility charges men a flat fee for the final six hours with their wives—should these men choose to exercise their final marital rights or not. The staff usher my husband to wait for my body in his designated chamber. The windowless room is bound in colored velvet and the finest Egyptian cotton threaded the sheets. I watch as my already purple and waxy body is prepped, my hair freshly tousled for our final session. The staff carefully shuts my sinking eyelids before I’m placed on the bed. My husband sits in a chair, pulls out a bottle of whiskey and places it next to the provided KY Jelly. This will be the longest six hours of his life.
Hour two: My husband sips, then gulps down his whiskey. I am certain he’s only here to spend a few quiet hours alone with me. The imaginary man I married would never fuck a corpse. That’s icky. We’re not Muslim. We’re not even religious. But, if years of religious ideology masquerading as law convinced my mother that it’s okay for a woman to marry her rapist, could the same ideology infect my husband? Why is he drinking whiskey anyways? He should be at my bedside, with his fists pointed at the ceiling, cartoonishly cursing the heavens for taking me so quickly and begging for some supernatural wonder to revive me back to life.
Hour three: Bedside? Did I say bedside? No, I never said bedside. That was crazy, dead-lady talk. Please go back to your chair and continue to lush down your stale whiskey. He kisses me, and the cheap rose lipstick slides off my pale lips. He caresses my hair. My spirit wants to scream at him, “I will be equally livid about any hint of KY in my freshly-tousled hair as I will be if you fuck my corpse.”
Hour four: My body’s muscles are stiff now, rigid like day-old hair gel. My husband moves in from the bedside to my side. He’s lying next to my body, drunk and trembling. I can’t believe what I’m about to witness. He penetrates my dead body and holds my blue hands. I want the ghostly powers movies always promised me. I want to haunt and torment him. I want him to stop.
Hour four and five minutes: Typical. He’s already dressed again.
Hour five: I can’t fucking believe I married a fucking corpse fucker.
Hour six: My husband finishes the last of his whiskey and gently places his lips on my forehead before he leaves the room. My sister greets him outside the farewell facility. “Angelina wanted you to have this,” she says, and hands him an onion. “It was in her will.” My husband takes a bite as my sister walks away.
It’s the decision I made when I was eight years old. Any man who forces himself on my body—dead or alive—gets the poisoned onion.