File Photo: Egypt's Administrative Prosecution (Photo: Ahram Arabic Gate)
Egypt's Administrative Prosecution ordered on Sunday the referral of an imam in the city of Mahalla to urgent trial for his involvement in the marriage of 27 minor girls, Al-Ahram Arabic website reported.
In his speech on Saturday during the official ceremony unveiling CAPMAS' latest census, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said he wanted to shed light on the practice of marrying off underage girls, in some cases as young as 12, which is illegal under Egyptian law.
Sisi used the opportunity to call on Egyptian parents to stop underage marriage, adding that some of the girls have already become divorcees.
There are several ongoing campaigns calling upon parliament to further combat child marriage.
Since 2008 it has been illegal to register a marriage in Egypt in which either party is under the age of 18. Earlier this month, the head of Egypt's National Women's Council, Maya Morsi, called upon parliament to raise the legal age to 21.
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, 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.