The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) has announced that during Eid al-Fitr it aborted 27 attempts to marry off girls less than 18, the legal marriage age. The Eid, the feast that celebrates the end of the Muslim holy month of fasting, Ramadan—is among the feast days most popular times for holding weddings in rural Egypt.
The underage marriage attempts occurred in the governorates of Alexandria in the North; Beheira, Daqahliya and Sharqiya in the Nile Delta region; and Giza, Beni-Sweif, Minya, Assiut, and Sohag in the south. The age of the girls ranged from 12 to 16.
Attempts of child marriages were stopped in cooperation with the Public Prosecution, the Ministry of Interior, and Child Protection Committees in the respective governorates; also with non-governmental organisations partnering with the NCCM. The NCCM was alerted to the planned underage marriages through its child helpline 16000.
According to Deputy Minister of Health and Population, Tarek Tawfik, who also supervises the NCCM, the NCCM’s Child Support System received 27 alerts to attempts to marry off underage girls during Eid.
Two conspicuous cases, Mr Tawfik noted, concerned 16-year-old girls who managed to escape and call the child helpline. The first was from a village in Koum Hamada, Beheira, who fled her home once she learned that her father had planned a urfi (unofficial) marriage for her. She ran to the railway station and boarded a train to Cairo. But she was stopped at the Cairo station by a policeman who asked why she had boarded the train and carried no ID. When she replied that she was running away from her father and brother to escape an illegal marriage, a report was filed with the prosecution, the girl’s father was summoned, questioned, and informed of the severe harms of child marriage; and the girl was handed to him once he signed a written pledge to break off her engagement and not to get her married until she turns 18.
The second 16-year-old would have been married off by her father to a 28-year-old man in Monoufiya. The girl’s father travelled with his daughter to the young man’s village under the pretext of holding an engagement. But when the girl discovered that it was no engagement but rather a wedding, she fled before the marriage contract was signed, and called the child helpline. When official investigations revealed her parents were not to be trusted with her custody, she was handed to a trustworthy relative. Her father was detained pending investigation.
Among the child marriage attempts reported, Mr Tawfik said, was one intended between a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy from a village in al-Badari, Assiut. Here too, he said, the attempted marriage was stopped, awareness sessions were held, and the parents agreed to no marriage for the children till they reach legal age. Noteworthy is that local NCCM partners follow up on the cases to make sure no marriage is concluded earlier than that.
Mr Tawfik thanked the Prosecutor-General and the Child Protection Committees for their prompt response to alerts of intended underage marriages, and issuing decisions protecting the girls. He stressed that the NCCM endeavours to uphold children’s rights and protect them from all forms of violence and abuse, working with local partners to provide awareness and counselling on the physical and moral harms of child marriage.
Mr Tawfik called upon parents to protect their daughters, allow them to live their childhood and innocence, and complete their education in order for them to have a bright future.
For details on Egypt’s policy on child marriage:
8 May 2022