- An Egyptian imam is on trial for involvement in marrying off underage girls
- President Abdul Fattah El-Sissi recently warned against child marriages a day before the move
- 118,000 Egyptian women are victims of underage marriage
- Underage marriages have been blamed for the alarming population growth, health hazards for minor mothers, and court disputes resulting from non-registered matrimonies
Egyptian prosecutors on Sunday referred a provincial mosque preacher to trial on charges of involvement in marrying off more than two dozens of underage girls, legal sources said.
The move comes a day after El-Sissi warned against illegal child marriages, which are believed to be still rife in some rural areas in Egypt.
The preacher used to lead prayers in a mosque in the province of Al Mahla Al Kubra, some 110 kilometers north of Cairo, where he allegedly arranged the marriage of 27 child girls, the sources added. Egyptian law sets the marriage age for females at 18.
News of the purported marriages came to the attention of local authorities after a woman complained to the police that her daughter was the victim of an early marriage handled by the cleric.
The woman claimed that her son-in-law refused to acknowledge the marriage formally after his alleged wife delivered a baby whose paternity he also denied.
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The claimant handed over to prosecutors a video showing the accused cleric conducting the informal marriage, locally known as orfi.
He is charged with fraud and facilitating immoral acts, the sources said.
The preacher could face up to four years in prison if convicted. No specific date has been set for the trial.
Around 118,000 Egyptian women aged less than 18 years are married, according to official figures released on Saturday.
In recent months, Egypt’s state agencies and non-governmental groups have intensified their efforts aimed at halting underage marriages, blamed for a rise in population growth, health hazards for the minor mother and court disputes over the paternity of children resulting from these non-registered matrimonies.
In their attempt to circumvent the 18-year limit set by the law, some families in Egypt informally marry off their minor girls with help of local clerics. The family waits until the girl turns 18 in order to officially register the marriage, a step necessary to preserve her legal rights and those of her children including those related to education and healthcare.
In mostly Muslim Egypt, legal marriage contracts must be conducted by a state-appointed registrar known as the Mazoun.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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