Egypt: Stop the lowering of the minimum age of marriage for girls in Egypt

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IMPORTANT: This archived action campaign has been completed or discontinued, and the information contained in it may not be current. Please see Take Action for current and ongoing campaigns.
Date: 
8 May 2012
Update Date: 
10 Oct 2012
Update: 

UPDATE: Due to the political situation in Egypt, the Egyptian Parliament is currently dissolved. Equality Now and our partners on the ground are monitoring the situation.


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Egypt’s People’s Assembly Council is currently discussing legislation that would reduce the minimum age of marriage for girls from 18 to possibly as low as 9 years old and could vote on the final draft bill at any moment. If adopted, girls could be married off by their families without their consent putting them at risk of physical and psychological harm, as well as cutting short other life opportunities, such as pursuing their education. Such measures make Egyptian women, including the umbrella organization Alliance for Egyptian Women, fearful that their rights are being rapidly eroded post-revolution.

>> TAKE ACTION NOW!

In an emerging pattern of challenges to women’s equality during the past year, Egyptian women are extremely concerned that the new government is prioritizing legislation that undermines and restricts women’s and girls’ rights. For example, draft legislation has also been introduced limiting a mother’s custody of her children upon divorce. In addition, a prominent MP of a conservative party has reportedly denounced the 2008 ban on female genital mutilation (FGM), stating that women should have the right to choose to undergo FGM. FGM is a harmful practice and a human rights abuse. According to UNICEF, FGM in Egypt is usually carried out on girls between the ages of 9 and 12. Therefore, the MP’s comment also ignores the fact that girls typically are unable to exercise their right to choose. Activists in Egypt, both women and men, have sent a statement to the Parliament highlighting the inconsistency of these proposed legislative changes with the principles of the revolution, which include dignity, justice and freedom.

The current Egyptian Constitution states that, "All citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination due to sex…." Egypt is also a party to a number of international human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which considers minors to be those under 18 years of age and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Both the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which oversee the implementation of these conventions, have strongly recommended that States increase the age of marriage to 18 years for both girls and boys. Article 16(2) of CEDAW clearly states that, “The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect…” To continue to comply with and implement its obligations under the CRC, CEDAW and other human rights standards, Egypt must not promote discriminatory legislation, such as the reduction of the minimum age of marriage for girls.

What You Can Do: 

Please urge the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Speaker of the People’s Assembly Council, and the President of the Shura Council to stop the proposed changes to the age of marriage law and the custody on divorce law. Remind the authorities that they have legal obligations both under the Egyptian Constitution to uphold gender equality and under human rights instruments, including the CRC and CEDAW, to reject any amendments that would undermine the rights of girls and women. >> TAKE ACTION NOW!

Letters should go to:

  • Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, 11 Al’ourubah Street, Cairo, Egypt / Fax: +202-241-83761, E-mail: amd@mmc.gov.eg (note: some emails have not been going through to this address; online signatures will be collected and faxed.)
  • Dr. Mohamed Said El Katatni, Speaker of the People’s Assembly Council, Majles El Shab St.1, Cairo, Egypt / Fax 002-227921040
  • Mr. Ahmad Fahmy, President of the Shura Council, Kasr Al Aini Street- Cairo, Egypt / Fax: 002-227941980
Letters: 

Dear Field Marshal/Speaker/President:

I am writing to express my support for the men and women in Egypt who are advocating for the maintenance of gender equality in Egypt as guaranteed under the Constitution. I therefore respectfully request that you do all you can to stop the proposed changes to the age of marriage law and the custody on divorce law.

I understand that Egypt’s People’s Assembly Council is currently discussing legislation that would reduce the minimum age of marriage for girls from 18 to possibly as low as 9 years old and could vote on the final draft bill at any moment. If adopted, girls could be married off by their families without their consent putting them at risk of physical and psychological harm, as well as cutting short other life opportunities, such as pursuing their education. I also understand that draft legislation has also been introduced limiting a mother’s custody of her children upon divorce. I support the women and men in Egypt who recently sent a statement to the Parliament highlighting the inconsistency of these proposed legislative changes with the principles of the revolution, which include dignity, justice and freedom.

The guarantee of gender equality under Egypt’s Constitution is also consistent with the government of Egypt’s legal obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as other instruments. Please do not make any amendment to the minimum age of marriage law or the custody on divorce law which would breach the equality provisions in the Egyptian Constitution and under international law.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,