Photos of an elaborate engagement ceremony between an 11-year-old child and a 12-year-old has sparked outrage across Egypt.
The engagement was announced by the “groom’s” father at his eldest son’s wedding, just 75 miles away from Cairo. Guests at the wedding defended the engagement to The Washington Post, saying there was “nothing inappropriate,” and that it is just “an engagement, not a marriage.” His father told Egyptian reporters that he is “a free man and did nothing wrong.”
The boy’s father said his son talked with the young girl on Facebook, and often spoke of marrying her. He defended his engagement, saying he merely wanted to arrange the marriage “before any other man asks for her hand in marriage when she is older”.
Egyptian law prohibits registering for marriage before the age of 18, but child marriage remains troublingly common in rural areas. The United Nations believes nearly 17 percent of all marriages in Egypt occur before the age of 18, most of them happening outside of urban areas.
Ninety percent of Egypt’s population is Sunni Muslim, while approximately 10 percent of the country consists of minority groups like Coptic Orthodox Christians.
The engagement “will only lead to an early marriage in which the girl will be deprived of equal chances to education, growth, and will isolate her from social spheres,” the head of Egypts Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness told The Washington Post.
The activist lamented that while she may be able to stop this specific case of child marriage, that rural families often have unofficial engagements until children turn 18. At that point, the children are forced to officially register for marriage.
Egypt’s media previously went into a frenzy in June when photo’s emerged of a 10-year-old bride with a 12-year-old groom.
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