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Egypt: New child marriage laws are a step backwards

2 May 2012: Plan has expressed deep concern at new marriage laws proposed by the Egyptian parliament.

An Egyptian MP has confirmed the drafting of a new law to lower the permitted age for girls to marry to just 14 from the current age 18.

Egypt’s National Council of Women (NCW) has already appealed to parliament to stop the legislation, saying it rids women of their basic educational and employment rights.

Backward step

Plan International, which works to promote child rights across Africa, believes the law proposals are a backward step for Egypt – and a violation of girls’ human rights.

Plan Egypt was actively involved in the process of amending the Child Law in 2008, when the legal marriage age was increased to 18.

But analysts have now questioned the future for women’s rights in Egypt under a new parliament still dominated by men.

Early marriage widespread

Ayman Zadek, programme area manager for Plan in Assiut, Egypt, said: “Plan Egypt strongly promotes child rights and according to the Child Rights Convention, any person under 18 is considered a child. Plan Egypt was actively involved in the process of amending the country’s Child Law in 2008, when the legal marriage age was increased to 18.

“Despite the improvements on the law, early marriage is still a widespread social phenomenon in Egypt. Plan Egypt, through its programmes and involvement in the Child Protection Network, continues to advocate against this issue."

Sexual violence

Plan Egypt considers early marriage as a violation of human rights. It is a harmful traditional practice and is a form of sexual violence against children, particularly young girls.

Zadek says early marriage makes girls vulnerable to domestic violence, premature pregnancy and poverty – as well as reducing their chance to complete their education.

Zadek continues: “Exposing young girls to marriage has a very negative impact on their physical and psychological health.

“It reduces their chances to complete an education and negatively impacts their ability to participate at the economic and social levels.

Premature pregnancies

“Girls who marry early are also more likely to experience premature pregnancies, which negatively impacts their health and the welfare of their children. Early marriage increases the risk of domestic violence, child labour and tends to reproduce the cycle of poverty. Plan Egypt will continue to advocate for the enforcement of the current child law - where marriage is not allowed for any child under 18 years old.”

Plan’s global Because I am a Girl campaign highlights and works for girls’ rights globally.  Ending child marriage, around the world, is a main priority of the campaign that launches across our 70 offices on October 11th 2012.

Note to editors:
  • Founded over 70 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world. We work in 50 developing countries across Africa (including 12 in West Africa), Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty.
  • The organisation works with more than 58,000 communities, covering a population of 56 million children
  • Because I am a Girl is Plan's campaign to fight gender inequality, promote girls' rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty.

Media enquiries:

For media enquiries, high res images and interviews, contact:

Jane Labous, press officer for East and West Africa regions,
Plan International Headquarters (UK)
Email: jane.labous@plan-international.org, +44 (0) 1483 733 330