The head of Egypt's National Council of Women's Rights, Maya Morsi, asked parliamentarians on Monday to draft a new law raising the legal age of marriage from 18 to 21, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.
Morsi also asked Egypt's MPs to block any attempts to reduce the legal age of marriage to 16, and to draft another law criminalizing child marriage for girls.
Morsi made her statements during a society dialogue session with the Social Solidarity Committee of Egypt's parliament.
According to the Minister of Social Solidarity, Ghada Wali, 16 percent of Egyptian girls marry before the age of 18. She described the figure earlier this month as “a high number”.
Child marriages are common in poor neighbourhoods around Egypt, with some families forcing their teenage daughters to marry older suitors from wealthier countries, mainly in the Arabian Gulf, according to the US State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons report.
In 2015, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi withdrew an objection made previously by Egypt in 1990 to a provision of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child regarding the child marriage issue.
The article, issued in 1990, reads that minors may not be married or engaged and that African states must enact effectual procedures to ban marriage before the age of 18.
Since 2008 it has been illegal to register a marriage in Egypt in which either party is under the age of 18.