According to reports in Egyptian local media, the ceremony took place in a rural part of the Qalyubia governorate, north of Cairo. The boy’s father announced the engagement between his son, Zain, who just finished the first half of second grade, and Zain’s 4–year-old cousin, Farida. The father told the local al-Youm al-Sabe newspaper that he paid a dowry of 18,000 Egyptian pounds (more than $1,000 US) to the girl’s family, adding that “all the family members completely agreed with the engagement process, in spite the couple’s young age.”
The story has been shared more than 10,000 times on social media platforms, where many are furious over the pictures, protesting against “ignorance and backwardness of people.” One poster said he believed that the kids’ families “should be put in prison.”
Seventeen percent of girls in Egypt are married before their eighteenth birthdays, according to Girls Not Brides, an umbrella group of international non-profits working against child marriage.
“While the rate of child marriage in Egypt is declining, religious and traditional ideals and customs have stalled this progress,” An initiative report writes. It adds that “child marriage mainly affects girls living in poorer rural areas and is on the rise in some locations, including Upper Egypt.”
The legal age of marriage in Egypt was raised to 18 in 2008, but Human Rights Watch notes that underage marriage remains “endemic” in rural areas. The watchdog group reports that agreements in which parents enter a betrothal for their young children until they’re grown, like the case in Qalyubia, remain commonplace,
After the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, Egyptian politicians proposed reducing the minimum age of marriage for girls from 18 to possibly as low as nine years old. Those proposals weren’t taken any further thanks to local human rights organizations.
By Gilad Shiloach