Cairo: Egyptian authorities have derailed a plan for the marriage of two schoolchildren after a video went viral online purportedly showing a party celebrating their engagement, the latest in a series of underage union exposed in the country.
The state National Council for Childhood and Motherhood said it learnt about the party after the event was reported on social media. After verifying that the ceremony took place in Cairo’s northern populous area of Ein Shams, officials from the council investigated and found out that the girl is living with her grandmother, who said it was a “mere engagement party,” the council said. The two children are reportedly aged 12 each.
Families of both children have made written pledges that their marriage will not be conducted before they reach the eligible age. Marriage age limit in Egypt is set at 18 years and above.
In the viral footage, captured by a mobile phone, the two children are seen dancing and later the alleged groom presents the traditional gold engagement gift to the girl amid cheers from a crowd of well-wishers.
“This incident and similar ones pose a grave danger to children and consecrate the cycle of violence,” the council’s chairwoman Sahar Al Sonbati said. “Families should protect their children from all forms of harm because pushing them into marriage affects their innocence,” she added.
According to current Egyptian law, involvement in underage marriages is punishable by up to four years in prison.
Egypt has a population of over 100 million, with an annual birth rate of 2.5 million babies. 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.