Underage Girls’ Marriage in Egypt: Its Implications on

Added on - 21 Sep 2019

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Underage Girls’ Marriage in Egypt: Its Implications on Sustainable DevelopmentIntroductionThe marriage of underage girls in Egypt or Middle East for that matter, is a widespread socialtradition, particularly in the rural areas. In Egypt, one in seven girls gets married before hereighteenth birthday. The families of such girls may have a notion that it is in the best interest oftheir daughters. But in the process, they fail to realize that they are violating their daughters’human rights. Egypt being the most populous Arab country also has the distinction of largestnumber of child brides in the region. As far as legal system of Egypt is concerned, Egyptian girlsand women are conferred with very few rights regarding marriage and, therefore, are left withlimited protection("Marriage. Validity. Marriage below the Age of Consent", 1927). The lawsare also not enough to prohibit domestic violence or espousal abuse. The Egyptian Personal Law,which is also based on Shari’ah governs the institution of marriage in Egypt. This makes familiesunable to resist these laws let alone their daughters. Moreover, wealthy Saudi businessmen havemade the situation worse, who regularly travel to Egypt to purchase young Egyptian brides. Themore concerning aspect of the underage marriage in Egypt is that there is a direct link betweenchild marriage and physical abuse. There are as many as 30 percent of young married womenwho fall victim to violence by their husbands and over 40 percent of them have reported beingbeaten up during pregnancy(Korson & Esposito, 1983). However, Egypt has also taken positivesteps such as it has lodged a reservation against child marriage in African Charter. Also, in 2008,the age of consent was raised to 18 by an amendment to Egypt’s child protection laws
ProblemsThe marriage of underage girls brings a multitude of problems for them. The early marriageresults into an end to the girl’s school education, forced sexual relations and early childbearing.This perpetual cycle of low education, high fertility, declining health and poverty also negativelyaffects country’s economic and social development. An underage bride’s lack of education alongwith her peers stops the support system that she ought to have. So, without having skills,mobility and connections, the underage bride is greatly limited in her ability to overcome thepoverty for herself, her children or her family("Tahirih – Forced Marriage InitiativeForcedMarriage Overseas: Egypt", 2016). The problems do not end here, the young girls who aremarried to older men with greater sexual experience come under a greater risk of HIV infection.Also, the women in the rural areas are either unaware of or face a lot of hurdles in their access ofbasic services such as healthcare and education.In Egypt, women face much more difficulties than men to dissolve their marriages. It ischallenging for them to undergo a complex, burdensome as well as discriminatory system of lawto end their marriages. In a strange way of circumvention of law, the women are provided with achoice between a fault-based divorce option, allowing them to retain their financial rights(although it takes a lot of time for them) and a swifter provision of divorce that abandons all ofthese rights. So, if a woman tries to seek divorce due to domestic violence, it is required for herto submit compulsory mediation for the purpose of family preservation(Hampton, 2010).Apart from that, in Egypt, there are certain prevalent practices in place where women and girlsare at constant risk of exploitations and forced marriages such as Urfi Contracts – the agreementsin which marriages are only recognized by local communities rather than the state laws. Due to
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