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Bikya Masr - May 26, 2010

Cairo - Minister of State for Family and Population Moshira Khattab said the marriage of underage girls is considered “slavery and legal prostitution,” adding that the first verdict of its kind by the Criminal Court of Giza this week, which sentenced a 77-year-old Saudi Arabian man to jail for marrying an Egyptian minor is a step in “the right direction.” The details of the verdict were not made public.

The minister added that the government would also seek jail time for brokers who oversee such marriages as a “deterrent toward such marriages.”

She described such marriages as “sexual exploitation,” adding that the opinion of Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa that the father “who marries his daughter, in the case referred to unchaste and is not fit to be a reliable father, the marriage is, void and should be applied in all Muslim countries.”

Khattab pointed out that provisions to the Egyptian law had been issued against the husband and the father as well as the lawyer who signed the marriage contracts. She hopes that such cases “will make all parties reconsider before such marriages” are entered into.

Khattab explained that parents are keen to get “rid” of their daughters in “a disgraceful way as a result of the increasing number of children and to be able to raise the rest.” The minister stressed that there will be a penalty later against parents who deprive their children of education, as a punishment for marrying minors.

The Minister for Family and Population, in a statement, stressed that “death rates due to marriage of minor girls is still high in Egypt due to early marriage and giving birth in a young age,” noting that men are now calling for the abolition of customary marriages and documentation of marriage contracts in order to save their children.

The statement added that many cases of marriage of minors is done “in the form of customary marriages, which violate the rights of girls.”

Women’s activists in the country said they are pleased at the court ruling, but added that more education and stiffer penalties in order to change the mindset of Egyptian families.

“There is a major difficulty in creating laws and changing perception,” began Amal Moghainy, an American-Egyptian activist. She argued that legal rulings alone “will not change this from happening again in the future, what is needed is a campaign to protect women and girl’s rights.”


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