Egyptian Parliament - File photo
CAIRO – 11 August 2017: A wide-scale controversy has been raised lately inside the Egyptian parliament over the legal age of girls for marriage, especially after MP Ahmed Sameh’s announcement on Wednesday about issuing a new draft law regarding reducing the age to be only 16 years old.
Shortly later, the new announcement turned into a “tit-for-tat” battle, especially after several statements by female parliamentarians refusing Sameh’s suggestion and accusing his new draft of being illegal.
In statements to Egypt Today on Thursday, Sameh said that he won’t back down from presenting his proposal to the parliament. “I will file my proposal and eventually the parliament has the right to vote to accept or refuse it,” he said.
“However, by accepting and implementing this law, we would legalize already-existent statuses in several town and cities all over the country,” Sameh said, justifying the reason behind his draft law. He added that most of the families in Upper Egypt and in the countryside allow their daughters and girls to get married starting from 16 years old, which is currently illegal, and then they document it legally when the girls reach the allowed age.
The current Egyptian law allows girls to get married only when they are 18 years old. Any new law, however, won’t be discussed inside the parliament before October, during the third round’s sessions.
MP Margaret Azer announced Thursday that she is going to issue another draft law herself to raise the legal marriage age of girls to 21 years old. “A 16-year-old girl is just a child; she is not qualified enough to be a mother or a wife. She is not a grown up yet,” Azer said in an official statement.
She added that Sameh’s proposal will lead to severe consequences, including increasing the problems of overpopulation and dropping out of education. “I wish the legal age would be 21, but 16 years old is not even constitutional,” she stated.
“To give those families the chance to legalize what is illegal is not right. Those people are wrong; their actions are wrong. We can’t help them,” Azer’s statement read.
Also, about 45 female parliamentarians signed a statement on Thursday refusing Sameh’s draft law to decrease the age of marriage. “For defending girls’ right of education, working, and having a proper life and a good chance to choose a suitable husband and raise children, we refuse to decrease the marriage age of girls,” the statement read.
They added that they completely refuse any attempt to violate women’s rights, stating, “We will uphold our rights and demand even for more.”