Child marriages are a ghost which threatens girls and kills their innocence and rights. It is one of the most heinous crimes that is still committed in humanity. Unfortunately, underage marriages are still prevalent in Egypt.
Thus, the Egyptian Ministry of Justice sent a draft law criminalising child marriages to the cabinet for review and approval, after which it will be sent to the House of Representatives for its approval as well.
The difference between the draft law and the already existing Child Law 12 of 1996 is that the new law includes five new additional articles. These articles stipulate penalties to be applied to anyone who participates in a marriage of someone under 18 years old, which could be family members of both brides and grooms, or maazouns (religious officials) who officiate the marriages of minors.
The new bill also stipulates that a maazoun must notify the General Prosecution if a child marriage is occurring and failure to do so will be met with job suspension and a one-year imprisonment.
The law also states that a marriage contract of any person under 18 will not be authenticated, and the contract cannot be ratified without approval from the Family Court.
The draft law will consider anyone under the age of 18 a minor, and therefore will impose a penalty on anyone involved in committing crimes against girls.
The law will also include the development of marriage and divorce contracts, by adding watermarks on documents to avoid their forging.
Furthermore, a marriage will require the IDs of both parties, as a condition to officiate it, and will not take into account medical certificates to determine the ages of brides and grooms.
Unfortunately, the latest population health survey revealed that 14.6% of girls in Egypt are married between the ages of 15 and 19.
For her part, Sakina Fouad, adviser to former interim president Adly Mansour for women’s affairs, told Daily News Egypt that child marriages are a violation of childhood and should be considered child trafficking.
She explained that the rise in the number of child marriages in Egypt is a result of the economic conditions and lack of girls’ awareness about their rights and is also due to parents’ exploitation of some girls’ weakness and their lack of awareness of their rights.
Fouad also noted that the bad practice had already existed, but what helped it return at high rates in 2013 was when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in the country. At the time, the Brotherhood-dominated parliament proposed a law to drop the minimum age for female marriage to 16 years old, but luckily, she said, that parliament was dissolved before the law was approved.
She continued that the crime exists, yet trafficking in the name of religion and using it as a cover for backwardness and extremism is at the core of the matter, which is a violation of the values of the girl and the rights of women.
Thus, she asserted that there is a demand to increase religious awareness and knowledge of true religion, as that will stand in the face of the bad practice.
Moreover, she commented that it is not easy to reap the fruits of the proposed law at the moment, since it will take time to combat traditions and wrong Islamic views, which will not be easily eradicated.
Noteworthy, the idea behind the bill was first proposed in late 2017, after President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi spoke during a ceremony marking the new population census. At the time, he suggested imposing strict penalties to limit the increasing number of female minors getting married.