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Egypt to penalise fathers of child brides

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly in Pretoria, South Africa, on 25 May 2019. [MICHELE SPATARI/AFP via Getty Images]
Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly in Pretoria, South Africa, on 25 May 2019 [MICHELE SPATARI/AFP via Getty Images]

Egypt's Cabinet is planning to issue a new law imposing more penalties for the marriage of underage girls and child labour, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said during a Cabinet meeting on the national strategic population plan.

The new law is set to toughen the penalties and broaden the scope of those penalised for child marriage to include the child bride's father or guardian.

The law will also penalise the fathers or guardians of working children.

Egypt has the thirteenth highest number of child brides in the world. According to Girls Not Brides, child marriage is in part driven by gender inequality. In 2017 UNICEF said that 17 per cent of girls in Egypt are married before their 18th birthday.

Despite the fact that Egypt has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates 18 should be the legal age for marriage, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which says marriage should be undertaken with free and full consent, child marriage continues.

Rights groups have said that Egypt needs to be tougher on criminalising child marriage. Often, neither the groom nor the parents of the child bride are charged, which has led to an increase in the practice.

READ: 12-year-old primary school pupils get married in Egypt

It has been reported that men from the Gulf have come to Egypt to choose child brides, sometimes just for a day, in what has become known as "summer marriages".

The men pay the child bride's family a large amount of money.

In 2013 Egypt's Child Anti-Trafficking Unit said that several women had been married 60 times before they turned 18.

Conservative clerics have said that minors should get married to avoid sexual promiscuity and to avoid the stigma that supposedly comes with women marrying late.

Often the phenomenon occurs in low-income, uneducated families.

Child marriage in the Middle East - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Child marriage in the Middle East – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

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