Rights groups condemn Dakahlia child marriage, push for legal action

Several groups defending child rights have condemned the marriage of a 12-year-old to a ten-year-old in Al-Maasara village, Dakahlia governorate this weekend, and threatened to sue those responsible.

The head of the National Council for Women (NCW), Maya Morsy, labeled the marriage a crime and a step backwards in the battle to prevent the marrying off of minors.

Speaking to Al-Masry Al-Youm, Morsy said that marriages like the one seen in Maasara destroy the future of children, depriving them of their childhood, their right to an education and to free choice. She indicated the poor trend set for the coming generations by underage marriages; the parents should have waited and allowed their children to make their own decision about forming their own families later on, she asserted. 

Morsy has been in conversation with the NCW branch in Dakahlia about the monitoring of such cases, so that measures can be taken to prevent and penalize parents attempting to marry off their children underage. 

She called for strict legislation that criminalizes underage marriage, protects the rights of children and punishes violence against women.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Meselhy, coordinator of the Child Rights Defense Network, said he will be filing complaints against the families of the two children to see them punished for breaking child law. 

Speaking to Al-Masry Al-Youm, Meselhy said the two children were exploited in a crime equivalent to human trafficking, and the penalty for the parents could be up to five years in prison. If the two families are found guilty of making the marriage transaction for financial benefit, the families could be sentenced to 15 years of prison with hard labor.

“Several measures will be taken to defend the rights of the two children through the defense network,” he said, explaining that they will request a meeting with the public prosecutor to push for swift trial for the perpetrators.

The minimum age for marriage by Egyptian law is 18, but based on UNICEF figures for 2016, 17 percent of Egyptian girls are married before then.

A 2008 amendment to the Child Law meant that child marriages are now prohibited, but not criminalized, according to the global campaign Girls Not Brides. Nevertheless, in recognition of the negative impact of child marriage on health, education of girls and population growth, the government began to develop a national strategy in 2013 to reduce the phenomenon by 50 percent in five years.   

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm


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