Under the guidance of Mostafa Madbouli, the Egyptian Prime Minister, the Cabinet of Ministers has approved a new draft law that solidifies the prohibition child marriage. The draft law has set out to criminalise underage marriage citing children’s lack of health and mental abilities to bear the responsibilities associated with marriage.
In an official statement, the Egyptian Cabinet reiterates the importance of ending the continued occurrence of child marriages, asserting that “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.”
Government policies have prompted legislators to intervene in an effort to actively prevent these harmful practices.
According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), approximately 18,000 women got married before the age of 16, representing 15 percent 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.
The draft law prohibits the authentication of a marriage certificate for any person below the age of 18 years old. Accordingly, every person who participated in the marriage of a minor younger than 18 years old is punished by five years in prison and a EGP 100,000-200,000 (USD 5,000-10,000) fine.
The draft law obligates the Maazoun or Marriage Officer to notify relevant authorities of any incident of a customary marriage where one of the parties is a child under 18 years old at the time of authentication.
Therefore, a penalty of imprisonment of no less than one year in addition to a fine between EGP 50,000-200,000 (USD 2,000-10,000) shall be inflicted on any Marriage Officer who authenticates the marriage of a male or female, neither of whom have reached 18 years of age.
In 2014, Egypt had adopted the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for the Prevention of Early Marriage led by the National Population Council (NPC). The plan aims to “reduce the prevalence of child marriage by 50 percent within a five year period.”
The Egyptian government has shown an increased political will and determination to halt the phenomenon of child marriage through attempting enhancing legal and institutional frameworks, but also augmenting access to quality services and creating adequate societal awareness as to the dangers of under marriage.