Woman in Desert near Sharm al-Sheikh – Flickr/David Dennis
CAIRO – 13 December 2018: "I never felt I was a child," a teenage widow told Egypt Today. The widow was genitally mutilated and was engaged when she was 13.
Two years later, S. Kh. married and was ordered to have a sexual relation with her husband, which she had known nothing about.
The husband died while his underage wife was pregnant, with no marriage certificate or any governmental documents proving that it is his child. After she delivered the baby, the husband’s family denied they knew the mother or the daughter.
Few months later, her father began to look for another groom because the tribal customs forbid divorced women and women in general from staying single, according to the victim.
Amal M., 25, a woman who lives in a village in Bahariya Oasis told Egypt Today that most girls in the oasis are obliged to marry when they are 16 years old, while the legal minimum age of marriage for girls in Egypt is 18. Consequently, tribal marriages taking place before the legal age cannot be documented and are criminalized.
According to a statistics by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, 36 percent of women in tribal communities get married at an age that is less than 16 years old. The UNICEF found that when mothers are under the age of 19 the risk of infant death during the first year is 60 percent.
Shockingly, 124,000 minor marriages took place in 2017 only, according to Ebrahim Salim, the spokesperson of Egypt’s Ma'zoon Fund. Ma'zoon is a Muslim cleric who authorizes Muslims’ marriages.
Moreover, Marsa Matrouh's National Council for Women reported that 75 cases of undocumented marriages and divorces take place annually.
Egyptian lawyer and human rights defender Reda al-Danbouki said that several honor crimes were committed to preserve the customs and traditions of tribal societies.
Danbouki, the executive director of the Women's Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness, referred that the spread of undocumented marriage and forcing girls to marry at an early age happen due to numerous economic, social and cultural factors, most importantly the tribes consider such marriages an essential part of family traditions.
In Qena, 150 cases attempted to commit suicide in 2017, according to official statistics, due to tribal marriages, Danbouki asserted.
Danbouki said that in many areas, women are forced to marry from inside the tribe to preserve the inherited properties, adding that sometimes girls who refuse to marry this way are threatened with death.
Additional reporting by Amr Mohamed Kandil