TEL AVIV — Newly released official statistics in Egypt indicate that some 6,000 cases of marriage involving children under 15 years of age, most of them girls, have occurred in the last few years.
Marriages involving minors are illegal in Egypt whether the underage individual is a boy or a girl. Despite the ban, however, Egyptian media has cited figures from Egypt’s Central Bureau of Statistics that suggest underage marriage is an increasingly common occurrence in local society.
The reported statistics show that 32.4 million Egyptians are under the age of 15 out of an overall population of 95 million. The 32.4 million minors can further be broken down into 15.7 million girls and 16.7 million boys.
The figures, compiled in 2017, document 5,999 cases of marriage involving a child under 15 years old, including 4,458 cases in which the underage partner was a girl and 1,541 cases in which the underage individual was a boy. These figures suggest that the underage girls getting married are often their husband’s second wife.
Of the 5,999 documented cases, just 72 instances of divorce were noted. In another 89 cases, the underage girls had become widows – a likely indication of their husbands’ old age.
The Egyptian parliament is expected to discuss the law further sanctioning the marriage of minors during its next session. The law was submitted by the National Council for Residents.
A bill currently being formulated would see harsh sentences and heavy fines for those involved in underage marriage, including anyone who performs the wedding ceremony or helps forge the documents needed to legitimize the marriage to official state institutions. Also sanctioned would be the family of the minor and anyone else proven to be involved in the marriage.