CAIRO: For the second year in a row, the Ministry of Family and Population launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers posed by underage as well as summer marriages, also referred to as temporary marriages, in the 6th of October governorate.
The awareness campaign will target young girls, students and families in the villages of Abou El-Nomros, El-Badrasheen and El-Hawamdeya through informal teaching methods and utilizing media outlets, according to a press statement issued by the ministry.
In the statement, Minister Moshira Khattab said that combating underage marriages is essential for Egypt’s fight against child trafficking and abuse.
Khattab also said that one of the reasons behind the ministry’s decision to kick off a second round of this campaign were the positive results of last year’s effort which she said spurred a social movement.
The ministry will consult local councils and non-governmental organizations in the targeted areas.
Summer marriages typically see wealthy older men pick a young bride from a pool of potential girls, a process facilitated by a marriage broker in exchange for large amounts of money acquired by both the facilitator and the girl’s parents. The marriage then ends when the visiting husband returns home after the summer.
"We are in dire need for such a campaign. Summer marriages are one of the main forms of violence against women, especially underage women," managing director of the Egyptian Association for Family Development Hala Abdel-Qader told Daily News Egypt.
"Such marriages are a mere business deal; they disregard social and personal compatibility," she said, adding that in many cases these women are forced to marry more than once.
"It takes away from the idea that marriage is everlasting," added Abdel-Qader, who hailed the ministry for its initiative.
Egypt embraced amendments to its Child Laws in 2008, setting the minimum age for marriage at 18 — instead of 16 — and criminalizing female genital mutilation, a practice that was considered the norm across most rural areas.
On the effect of the amendments, Abdel-Qader said, "It is hard to determine exact figures in such a short time, but what we saw when we visited villages is a sense of fear."
Abdel-Qader explained that penalizing those who breach the law instills a sense of fear among Egyptians and hence encourages them not to marry off their children at a young age.
In May, a 66-year-old Saudi Arabian national was sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia for marrying a 14-year-old Egyptian girl. The marriage broker who facilitated the marriage was also penalized.
The court sentenced the lawyer who forged the common law (urfi) marriage contract to two years in prison, while the minor’s parents were handed down a one-year suspended sentence.
"Such campaigns must exist alongside the new laws," Abdel-Qader said.
Last month, the US State Department published its 10th annual Trafficking in Persons Report describing Egypt as a source, transit, and destination country for women and children who are subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor and forced prostitution.
And on summer marriages, the report said, "Wealthy men from the Gulf reportedly travel to Egypt to purchase ‘temporary’ or ‘summer marriages’ with Egyptian females, including girls who are under the age of 18."