On April 12, 2022, the Egyptian Cabinet approved a draft law on criminalizing underage marriages in Egypt. The draft law would punish the parents of the underage bride and groom, the officiator conducting such a marriage, and any adult over the age of 18 who marries a minor. The main objective of the draft law is to eliminate the phenomenon of underage marriage to preserve the health of minors, especially females.
According to news reports, the Cabinet issued a statement saying that minors in underage marriages are not qualified psychologically, culturally, mentally, and physically to bear the responsibilities of marriage, including having children.
Draft Law on Underage Marriage
The draft law would require a marriage officiator (ma’zoon) to report any customary marriage to the Public Prosecution when one of the parties to this marriage, whether male or female, is under 18 years old at the time of concluding the marriage contract.
The draft law would sanction marriage officiators who conclude a marriage contract that involves a minor with imprisonment for not less than 12 months and a fine of 50,000–200,000 Egyptian pounds (about US$2,688–$10,752). Additionally, the draft law would punish marriage officiators who fail to report to the Public Prosecution any customary marriage involving a minor with imprisonment for no less than six months, a fine of 20,000–50,000 Egyptian pounds (about US$1,075–$2,688), and removal from office.
Likewise, the draft law would punish anyone who incites a minor to marry an adult with imprisonment for not less than 12 months and a fine of 50,000–200,000 Egyptian pounds.
Finally, the draft law would impose the aforementioned penalties on an adult who marries a minor.
Current Provisions Regulating Underage Marriage
The current provisions on underage marriage do not impose criminal penalties for this type of marriage, though they do prohibit the registration of this type of marriage. Law No. 126 of 2008, which amended a prior law on Egypt’s civil registry, stipulates that it is not permissible to register a marriage contract for any person who has not reached 18 years old. (Law No. 126 of 2008, amending Law No. 143 of 1994, art. 31(duplicate).)Furthermore, Ministerial Resolution No. 6927 of 2008, which amended the marriage officiators’ regulation of 1955, provides that it is not permissible for a marriage officiator to initiate a marriage contract or certify a marriage unless both spouses are at least 18 years old at the time of the contract. (Ministerial Resolution No. 6927 of 2008, issued by the Ministry of Justice, art. 33 (duplicate).)