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Egypt

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
2%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
17%

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

Photo credit: World Bank | Dominic Chavez

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
2%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
17%

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

17% of girls in Egypt are married before their 18th birthday and 2% are married before the age of 15.

According to UNICEF, Egypt has the 13th highest absolute number of child brides in the world – 683,000.

A 2017 World Bank study shows that ending child marriage in Egypt could generate USD2893 million in earnings and productivity.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys. In Egypt, child marriage is also driven by:

What has this country committed to?

Egypt has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The government outlined actions taken in relation to this target during its Voluntary National Review at the 2016 High Level Political Forum, the mechanism through which countries report their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals including:

  • The development of Equal Opportunities Units within different ministries, responsible for expanding employment access for women
  • Increasing the participation of young, unemployed women in the economy through the Salheya Initative
  • The 2015 launch of a partnership between the UN and government agencies focused on the social, legal and economic empowerment of Egyptian women.

However the government did not report on progress made against target 5.3 during its 2018 Voluntary National Review.

Egypt co-sponsored the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage, and signed a joint statement at the 2014 Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Egypt ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1981, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage. However, it expressed concern about Article 16 of CEDAW and noted that Islamic Sharia provisions confirm that a husband shall pay bridal money to a wife.

In 2001 Egypt ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.

Egypt has not signed or ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, including Article 6 which sets the minimum age for marriage as 18.

During its 2014 Universal Periodic Review, Egypt agreed to consider recommendations to abolish child marriage and the temporary commercial marriages of girls.

In 2011, the UN Child Rights Committee reiterated concerns about the tourist marriages of Egyptian girls to foreign men, noting that such is being used to disguise the prostitution and the trafficking of children. It expressed concern that the monitoring of the situation by subcommittees of marriage clerks, and the establishment of a family counselling helpline, was insufficient in tackling the issue. It urged joint efforts between the Anti-Trafficking Unit of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, law enforcement agencies and civil society to punish perpetrators.

In 2010, the CEDAW Committee urged the government to develop awareness-raising campaigns on the negative implications of temporary marriages in collaboration with religious authorities.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

A five year National Strategy to Prevent Child Marriage was launched in 2014 and led by the government’s National Population Council. The strategy aims to reduce the prevalence of child marriage by 50% within five years. A National Coordinating Committee has been established to implement the strategy, which has five focus areas:

  • Minimising the negative impact of child marriage on girls and their families
  • Updating legislation to ensure better protection of women and girls
  • Developing specific policies to mitigate child marriage
  • Empowering and educating young girls to address family and societal pressures
  • Raising awareness on the harmful consequences of child marriage.

The political instability associated with the Arab Spring in Egypt interrupted the strategy’s implementation. However progress seems to be once more underway. In October 2017, Egypt’s National Council for Women launched the No to Underage Marriage campaign in cooperation with the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Christian clerics.

In September 2017, the Head of Egypt’s National Council of Women’s Rights called on Parliament to set a draft new law that raises the legal age of marriage from 18 to 21, and another law that explicitly criminalises child marriage for girls.

The Population Council launched the Ishraq child marriage prevention programme in 2001, targeting girls who were not enrolled in school. The percentage of girls who reported a preference to be married before the age of 18 decreased as a result of the intervention.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

The minimum legal age of marriage in Egypt is 18 years.

However, underage girls are frequently married in urfi, an unofficial customary form of marriage.

Source

African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, [website], 2018, (accessed February 2018)

African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, [website], 2018, (accessed February 2018)

Egypt Independent, Head of Egypt’s NCWR calls on Parliament to ratifies 21 as legal age of girls’ marriage, [website], 2017, (accessed March 2018)

International Center for Research on Women, More Power to Her – How empowering girls can end child marriage, 2014, (accessed March 2018)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014, (accessed April 2018)

Ministry of Health and Population, Egypt Demographic and Health Survey, 2014, 2015, (accessed March 2018)

Ministry of International Cooperation, Egypt National Review Report for Input to the 2016 HLPF, 2016, (accessed May 2018)

Population Council, Panel Survey of Young People in Egypt, Generating Evidence for Policy, Programs and Research, 2015, (accessed March 2018)

The Caravan, Egypt Takes Steps to Eradicate Child Marriage, [website], 2017, (accessed March 2018)

The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, Second Shadow Report for the CEDAW Coalition, Egypt, 2009, (accessed March 2018)

UNICEF, Egypt MENA Gender Equality profile, Status of Girls and Women in the Middle East and North Africa, 2011, (accessed March 2018)

UN CEDAW, Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 2010, p.7, (accessed March 2018)

UN Child Rights Committee, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention, 2011, p.18, (accessed March 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Egypt, 2014, p.22, (accessed March 2018)

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed February 2018)

United States State Department, Trafficking in Persons Report, 2015, (accessed March 2018)

World Bank and International Center for Research on Women, Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: Global Synthesis Report, 2017, (accessed March 2018)

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)