The draft law aims to criminalise underage marriages due to children’s lack of health and mental ability to bear the consequences of marriage.
In a statement, the cabinet asserted that children are not qualified psychologically, culturally, mentally, and physically to be responsible for a family and raising children, explaining that underage marriage is an attack on childhood, which prompted legislators to intervene to prevent these harmful practices.
The draft law stipulates that a marriage contract for a person who has not reached 18 years old may not be authenticated. It also allowed those concerned to submit a request in a petition to the President of the Family Court as a judge of temporary matters to authorise the documentation of a marriage contract for a person under 18 years old in the crimes stipulated in Articles No (267), (268), and (269) of the Law Penalties, after a final guilty verdict is issued.
The draft law requires the maazoun (‘Marriage officer’) to notify the Public Prosecution of any incident of a customary marriage in which one of the parties is a child under 18 years old at the time of marriage.
A penalty of imprisonment of no less than one year and a fine between EGP 50,000 and EGP 200,000 shall be inflicted on anyone who marries a male or female, neither of whom have reached 18 years of age at the time of marriage.
Parents who participate in marrying their daughter or son who is under 18 years of age would be deprived of the authority of guardianship over the child.
Whoever instigates this crime shall be punished with the same penalty. The child shall not be held criminally or civilly liable for this crime.
The law also punishes maazouns with no less than six months of imprisonment, a fine between EGP 20,000 and EGP 50,000, and being removal from their post, in the event they do not notify the Public Prosecution of incident of underage marriage.
According to the 2017 national census released by the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics, the total number of women over the age of 18 who could legally get married has reached 27.7m, with 23m women married, including 119,000 girls who have been married before reaching the age of 18.
Meanwhile, 18,000 women got married before the age of 16, representing 15% of girls who got married before the legal age of marriage. The Ministry of Health and Population also reported that 500,000 children are born every year to adolescent mothers.