A new draft law criminalizing child marriage has been proposed by the Egyptian government, bringing with it a penalty of up to one year of imprisonment to those involved, while also taking children away from parents who allow them to be married.
Five new articles of the draft law will be added to the already existing child law Article 12 from 1996.
The articles specify that the penalties apply to anyone involved in the marriage of a child under 18 years old. The penalty shall also be imposed on anyone who signed a child marriage contract, including the Mazoun (Muslim cleric who organizes marriages).
The bill also stipulates that the Mazoun must notify the General Prosecution if a child marriage was occurring, and failure to do so would be met with job suspension and one year imprisonment. The law also states that a marriage contract to a person under 18 will not be authenticated, and the contract cannot be ratified without approval from the family court.
Abla al-Hawari, a member of the constitutional and legislative affairs committee of the House of Representatives, said that she is one who adopted the bill originally submitted by the National Council for Women (NCW) to criminalize marriages of young girls, though the government wanted to expand the issue and include both genders.
“The authority of guardianship over any married child under the age of 18 will be transferred to the Ministry of Social Solidarity according to the provisions of the Constitution,” Hawari told Sada al-Balad newspaper.
She said that child marriage is one of the most critical issues that must be seriously addressed by society, noting that there are many studies indicating that the phenomenon is hitting an alarming increase.
“The marriage of minors weighs badly on the family and society, and several studies show a relationship between the increase in divorce rates and early marriage,” she explained.
The idea behind the bill was first proposed in late 2017, after President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi spoke during a ceremony marking the population census. There he suggested imposing strict penalties to limit the increasing number of female minors getting married.