In an attempt to outlaw child marriage in the country, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi issued a decree making it illegal for Egyptians to get married before the age of 18.
The recent decree brings Egypt into compliance with the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on the matter of child marriage. The Charter was adopted in 1990 and outlines the rights that African countries are expected to ensure for their children.
Prior to the decree, girls could get married as young as 16 years old. Child marriage remains a common practice in Egypt, accounting for 15% of all marriages in the country.
According to a study conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) one in three girls in developing countries is married before reaching 18 years old. One in nine is married under the age of 15.
Many international agreements outlaw child marriage, including the Convention of the Child and the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Many international conferences and organizations have also called on countries to eliminate child marriage.
In Egypt, girls are often married off temporarily in exchange for money that is arranged by the parents and the temporary husband. Azza el-Ashmawy, director of the Child Anti-Trafficking Unit at the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, describes these kind of marriages as “prostitution in the guise of marriage.” In speaking with the Al Arabia newspaper, he said that some girls have been married 60 times by the time they turn 18 years old.
Media Resources: Egyptian Streets 12/1/15, 8/1/15 ; The African Union; United Nations Population Fund; Al Arabia 8/16/13