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Parties Involved in Underage Marriages in Egypt Could Soon Land in Prison for 10 Years

Egypt's parliament is drafting bills and taking names.

The Egyptian Parliament is in talks about a draft bill that proposes more stringent penalties against underage marriage. This action is being made not just on moral grounds, but also to combat the alarming population growth in Egypt.

A previous draft bill was proposed in June of last year regarding the issue. The bill included a penalty for up to one year of imprisonment for all parties involved in the child marriage taking place, as well as taking children away from parents allowing them to elope. As of present day, Egyptian law states that involvement in underage marriage is punishable by up to 4 years in prison.

The articles specified that anyone who signs the marriage contract, including the Ma'zoun, would be penalized and that the Ma'zoun is to notify the General Prosecution if a child marriage is taking place; failure to report would result in job suspension and one year in prison.

This new draft suggests that jail time will be bumped up to 5 to 10 years with a maximum fine of EGP 100K.

Parliament Member Mohammed Al Aqad, who proposed the bill, stresses the urgency of the issue calling for a complete halt of child marriages as soon as possible. Al Aqad addressed child marriage as an issue of national security in a statement on Saturday, adding: “Underage marriages threaten society and have a direct effect on the population increase. These penalties are necessary to stop the marriage of those who are under 18 years in order to preserve their rights and build a wholesome society based on mature thinking,”

The motion was put forward in light of a warning from the Egyptian government, calling the current population growth rate “horrifying”. They reported that the annual birth rate in Egypt has reached 2.5 million babies, our current population standing at 106 million with 9 million Egyptians living abroad.

Even though the legal marriage in Egypt is set at 18 years, rural traditions and conservative clerics disregard the law, believing that minors marrying prevents sexual delinquency. Because of this, families informally marry off their children, mostly girls, with the help of local clerics and then wait till they turn 18 to officially register the marriage.

Acknowledging the lack of education being the root of this issue, government spokesman Nader Saad stated last week that “misconceptions are one of the reasons for the population increase. We will face this by launching a major media campaign to raise people’s awareness about the importance of family planning.”

Alleged cases of child marriage have plagued Egyptian media, revealing the desperate need to educate the public and further impede these violations. With the supposed awareness campaign and stricter laws, Egypt seems to be heading in the right direction.