RELIGION

Egypt's el-Sissi says he is alarmed by high divorce rates

In this handout photo provided by the Egyptian presidency, President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sissi speaks during a ceremony making Police Day, at the Police Academy in an Eastern Cairo suburb, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017.  El-Sissi says he is alarmed by his country's high divorce rates and is suggesting ground-breaking legislation to ban Muslim husbands from verbally declaring their spouses divorced. (Egyptian Presidency via AP)

In this handout photo provided by the Egyptian presidency, President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sissi speaks during a ceremony making Police Day, at the Police Academy in an Eastern Cairo suburb, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. El-Sissi says he is alarmed by his country's high divorce rates and is suggesting ground-breaking legislation to ban Muslim husbands from verbally declaring their spouses divorced. (Egyptian Presidency via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Egypt's president says he is alarmed by his country's high divorce rates and is suggesting ground-breaking legislation to ban Muslim husbands from verbally declaring their spouses divorced.

In a televised address, President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sissi said Tuesday he has recently learned that 40 percent of Egypt's 900,000 annual marriages end in divorce after five years.

He suggested that legislation should be adopted so a divorce would be legal only if it is done in the presence of a "maazoun," a cleric authorized by the government to administer marriage and divorce.

Some couples already do that, but many husbands also divorce verbally — often in the heat of an argument — before later documenting the divorce.

"They should go to the maazoun, so it's not just a word casually uttered," said el-Sissi.