The Egyptian National Council for Women has described a new bill that would lower the minimum age of marriage for women from 18 to 16 as “backwards.”
In a statement on Friday, the NCW said that the law, which MP Ahmed Sameh has proposed, would lead to a regression in the rights attained by women, and would delay the achievement of desired development in the country.
"It impedes all efforts by the state to overcome the problem of population explosion, and to prevent early marriage, and it does not guarantee the rights of women to complete their studies and choose their life partner,” read the statement.
It also pointed to “the impact of [early marriage] on the health of women and children and hence society" and said it would contribute to “the marginalisation of the role of women in the development process, and public affairs.”
According to the statement, the draft law would contradict with the country’s child law, which defines children as those under the age of 18.
Child marriage is a persistent issue in Egypt. Despite the current law mandating 18 as a minimum age, nearly 36 percent of marriages in remote areas and southern Egypt, according to studies by the NCW, include a partner who has not reached 18.
Maya Morsi, the head of the council, has said that a key factor in the nation's population growth is the phenomenon of early marriage.
The law has already been criticised by a number of MPs in parliament.
The council, an official body, noted in its statement that many countries around the world, including African countries, have set 21 as a minimum age of marriage.