Egypt justice minister Ahmed El-Zend (Photo: Ahram)
Egypt’s justice minister Ahmed El-Zend issued on Tuesday a decree that obliges foreigners intending to marry Egyptian females to present investment certificates worth LE50,000 (about $6,385) in the wife’s bank account if if the age difference between the two "exceeds 25 years".
The decision was issued on Tuesday and was announced in the country’s official gazette.
The law stipulates that the Group B investment certificates must be deposited at the National Bank of Egypt with a 12.75 percent interest rate to be paid every six months for 10 years.
Azza Kamel, a female rights advocate and the founder of Egypt’s Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development (ACT), told Ahram Online that she believes the reason behind the law is to protect the rights of Egyptian women, along with addressing the issue of child marriage.
“While I believe that this law will provide insurance [for Egyptian women], I still believe this is not enough to eliminate child marriage. There have to be some kind of guarantees,” Kamel said.
Kamel believes that the age restriction imposed in the law is a problem because it covers “specific cases only,” which does not provide the assurance needed.
In July 2015, then-population minister Hala Youssef said child marriage has reached a rate of 15 percent, with a rise in poor governorates.
Despite Egypt changing the legal age of marriage to 18 in 2008, the marriage of children still continues across the country and especially in deprived places, according to Youssef.
Forced marriages are common in poor neighbourhoods around Egypt, with some families forcing their girls to marry old suitors from several countries, mainly the Arabian Gulf, according to the US State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons report.
The report states that individuals from the Gulf “purchase” Egyptian women and girls for “temporary” or “summer” marriages for the purpose of prostitution or forced labour.
The report added that the arrangements are often facilitated by the victims’ parents and “marriage brokers” who profit from the transaction.
According to National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) case studies, “Arab marriage” is facilitated through the marriage broker who provides all the facilitative steps and temptations for poor Egyptian families.
The NCCM says the suitors then desert the young brides, therefore depriving them of their rights.
Kamel believes that there should be protections from Egyptian embassies abroad that would secure the rights of Egyptian brides “in case the foreign suitor decides to abandon her.”
Last month, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi withdrew an objection made 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 take effectual procedures to ban marriage before 18.
According to the official gazette, the objection made by Egypt will be officially removed in March 2016.