Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court said on Sunday that “Urfi” (unregistered) marriages of minors represent a violation of children’s rights and a blatant attack on children and young girls, calling the practice of child marriage in Egypt inconsistent with efforts made to protect and promote women’s rights.
The court stressed that the media must work with clerics to raise awareness about the risks of underage marriage and its negative psychological impact on young boys and girls, adding that Egypt has adopted and implemented the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which bans child marriage and engagement.
The court also emphasized the need to address controversial practices related to the unregistered marriages of young girls and boys in Egypt by endorsing the law setting the minimum age at 18 years, which the court says is in line with the principles of Islamic Sharia.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Endowments Ministry has been in communication with the Administrative Prosecution to investigate a complaint against Faraj Saqr, the Imam and preacher of al-Arbaain Mosque in the village of Mit Habib in Samanoud, Gharbeya, for administering the marriage of a girl and a boy, despite the fact that both the bride and groom were minors at the time of the ceremony, a violation of Egyptian law.
Communication between the Ministry of Endowments and the Administrative Prosecution indicated that Saqr had administered a number of “Urfi” marriages of young girls who had not yet reached the legal age of marriage, under the pretext that the practice is “lawful” in Islamic Sharia.
The court ruled to dismiss Saqr from his post, adding that the legislator was keen to prohibit the documentation of a marriage contract for for boys or girls under 18 year of age, through several legislative and regulatory texts.
According to the court, Egyptian law sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 years, which it says is not a violation of the provisions of Islamic Sharia or the Egyptian constitution.
The rules of Islamic Sharia, which the court called “enlightened” principles that address people in all societies regardless of culture or religious customs, constitute the main source of legislation according to the Egyptian Constitution.
In 2008, Egypt’s Child Law was amended, raising the legal age of marriage in Egypt from 16 to 18.
In some Egyptian villages, girls are married before the legal age of marriage by signing Urfi contracts, which have been viewed as a way around the state’s law. However, unregistered marriages also means sacrificing key legal rights for young girls before they turn 18 and the contract is officially registered.
An official report from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) in 2018 found that 117,000 children between 10 and 18 in Egypt are (or have been) married, despite a national campaign against the phenomenon.
Upper Egypt accounted for the highest percentage of child marriages and divorces in the report.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm
Image: AFP File Photo