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Cairo: Egyptian authorities have thwarted an underage girl’s marriage at her wedding party in the south of the country amid stepped-up measures to expose and head off such child marriages.

The state National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) said it had moved to stop this illegal marriage after receiving a report from an anonymous person saying that a father in the southern city of Assiut planned to marry off his 14-year-old daughter.

The council’s chapter in the city verified the report and ensured its truthfulness. The child bride was found wearing the wedding dress at a ceremony in her home village, the NCCM said in a statement.

Local police were notified of the incident and consequently stepped in and halted the wedding ceremony.

“The girl’s father was summoned by public prosecution,” NCCM Chairwoman Sahar Al Sonbati said.

“He and the groom signed written pledges to take good care of the child and not to finalise her marriage until she reaches the legal age [of 18 years],” she added, according to the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram.

It was not clear if the father and the groom, whose age was not given, would face any penalty.

The child’s family also attended a session organised by the city’s childhood protection committee on health, psychical and psychological dangers of child marriage, according to the official.

“The NCCM does its best to eliminate all harmful practices against girls and consecrate violence against them. Girls have the right to live in dignity, enjoy their childhood and rights to education and healthcare,” Al Sonbati added.

In recent years, Egypt has stepped up efforts to combat child marriages.

According to Egyptian law, involvement in underage marriages is punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds (Dh11,700).

Egypt has a population of over 100 million, with an annual birth rate of 2.5 million. There are around 39 Egyptian million children below the age of 18, some 117,000 of them are either married or divorced, according to the state statics agency.

Local traditions, backed by conservative clerics, recommend minors’ marriage, allegedly to head off sexual promiscuity, and also to have children early in married life.