Child marriage is an abhorred practice in many parts of the world. However, tradition is ongoing in many Arab and African countries such as Egypt. Different reasons explain why it exists, but most of them are shrouded in cultural, economic, and religious mystery. This literature review explores the main causes of child marriages in the North African nation and possible solutions for combating it. The analysis stems from one research question, which investigates the main causes of child marriages in Egypt and possible ways of stopping it. It is important to study child marriage as a social problem in the Arab nation because it has serious mental, health, and social ramifications to young girls who are victims of the practice.
Analyzing child marriage in Egypt is pivotal in comprehending the tradition in the larger Arab context because other Middle East countries also share the same problem. Broadly, one of the main limitations of this study is its contextual nature. Although some tenets of this review refer to the general Arab region, the details provided in this report mainly apply to Egypt, its legal environment, and its cultural dynamics. Similarly, the details highlighted in this study should be understood within the limits of the current legal, economic, and social environment in Egypt. In other words, the findings are context-specific.
Why Do Child Marriages Occur in Egypt?
Several articles explain why child marriage occurs in Egypt. A study conducted by Montazeri, Gharacheh, Mohammadi, Rad, and Ardabili (2016) between May 2013 and January 2015 in Ahvaz, Iran, suggested that financial issues were the main causes of the problem. The study also investigated child marriage in the Egyptian context and explained that, in 2014, the government, through the country’s National Population Council, developed a strategy to address child marriage by formulating laws that prohibited people from officiating child marriages in the country (Montazeri et al., 2016). Although the researchers argue that such measures are beneficial in the fight against child abuse, they contend that its failure to yield significant gains could be attributed to implementation failures on the government’s part (Montazeri et al., 2016). The usefulness of this article to the current analysis is its presentation of basic information about child marriages in the Middle East and the main causes of the same. It is also crucial in helping stakeholders to understand how to stop the practice. However, it is limited in its use of a small sample population of 15 respondents who were interviewed face-to-face.
Bravo, Martinez, and Ruiz (2014) also support the above view because they say poverty is the main cause of child marriages. They formulated this view after conducting a study using an ethnographic qualitative approach to evaluate the attitudes of a selected sample of North African women about the practice. Their study is important to this analysis because it explains some of the cultural and economic issues fuelling child marriages in Egypt and the wider North Africa region. It also helps to explain people’s attitudes towards the practice and the reasons for their reluctance to address the issue. The main limitation of the study is that it only focuses on highlighting the main causes of child marriages and fails to suggest practical solutions on how to address it.
The article by Yount et al. (2016) also highlights the economic reasons for the spread of child marriages in Egypt because it demonstrates that financial reasons are the catalyst for people from poor families and “rich suitors” to agree to “sell-off” young girls for a price. The article also suggests that increasing economic opportunities of Egyptian citizens is an indirect way of addressing child marriages because poverty is a key driver of the tradition (Yount et al., 2016). This research is critical to this analysis because it explains the major causes of conflict between men and women in marriages. It also explains why child marriages fail to work and why they could cause social disorder in many Islamic societies. The main limitation of the study is its narrow cultural focus on Bangladesh. Therefore, it is difficult to extrapolate its findings to the Northern Africa cultural space, except for its link with Islam.
Wodon (2015) also tries to explain the main cause of child marriages in Egypt by saying it is a problem that mostly affects low-income families. He also says cultural reasons are to blame for the high prevalence of the practice in Egypt and the wider Northern Africa region. This article is important to this review because it explains the effects of child marriages on young girls. Particularly, it draws attention to the lowering of education standards and income earning potential as the main effects of child marriage. Its main limitation is its excessive reliance on religious doctrines to explain the practice. Consequently, it is difficult to understand the practice beyond the faith-based analytical lens used to develop the study.
Khater and ZeinEldin (2013) say, culturally, child marriage is deeply entrenched as a patriarchal norm in Egypt. The two authors also argue that these cultural beliefs affect different aspects of a girl’s development, including fertility, education levels, and self-esteem. This journal is useful to the current study because it highlights the entrenchment of cultural norms in the Egyptian society and the patriarchal nature of people’s views on female sexuality, which contribute to the high prevalence of child marriages in the state. However, it is limited to the fact that it mostly focuses on fertility issues and not the holistic understanding of child marriages in Egypt.
Proposals to Stop Child Marriages in Egypt
Researchers have proposed legislative solutions to stop child marriages in Egypt. For example, the article by Wijffelman (2017) says child marriage requires a legal solution because the law could be used to prevent the recognition of such marriages in the society. This study is useful in this analysis because it explains the context that child marriages relate to international statutes on human rights and child development milestones. However, its main limitation is its use of legal statutes to address child marriages, which are mostly constrained by jurisdictional boundaries.
Sowey (2017) also supports the use of legislative tools to stop child marriages, but she points out that this approach is inadequate in holistically covering all loopholes people use to continue the practice. Therefore, she suggests that legislative provisions should be coupled with protective and preventive strategies to comprehensively manage the vice (Sowey, 2017). Her study is important to this review because it highlights creative legal strategies that Egypt could employ to stop child marriages. Nonetheless, the study is limited in its comprehension of the research issue because it is presented from a western perspective. Therefore, some of the proposals highlighted may not apply to other countries.
The article by Elden and Mosleh (2015) is more specific to the Egyptian situation because it highlights the need for a change in Egyptian law to abolish child marriages. Using focus group discussions, the researchers investigated people’s attitudes towards child marriages in Egypt and found out that a majority of them believed existing laws were relevant in protecting the health of young girls, but were inapplicable to the tradition, from a religious standpoint. This article is important in this review because it explains the legal loopholes that proponents of child marriage in Egypt use to propagate the practice. The study’s main limitation is its use of the descriptive method, which only provides an abstract understanding of the effects of Egyptian laws on child marriages.
Maswikwa, Richter, Kaufman, and Nandi (2015) also highlight the need for legislative changes to curb child marriages as a social problem in Egypt. Their study demonstrates that since child marriage cannot be categorized as a form of slavery, it is important to formulate laws that criminalize the practice as a form of child abuse. This article is useful in this review because it contextualizes child marriages within the wider quest for gender equality around the world. However, it is limited in its inability to provide situation-specific solutions to the problem because it adopts a broad understanding of child marriage as a human rights issue.
Educating the public, as a strategy to stop child marriages in Egypt, is also another proposal made by researchers, such as Walker (2015) who says doing so could help the country to secure people’s goodwill to fight the vice. The researcher says the public’s support is needed in preventing child marriages and the only way to actualize this goal is to educate people about the negative effects of the practice. He also suggests that this approach would mitigate some of the negative cultural practices that support the practice (Walker, 2015). Particularly, Walker (2015) draws attention to the need for including faith-based organizations in education programs because they provide the religious foundations for understanding why the practice exists and how it could be stopped. This article is useful in this review because it highlights the religious premise of child marriages in Islam. In other words, it is important to this analysis because it helps in understanding the religious doctrines that support child marriage in the first place. The main limitation of the study is that it examines child marriage issues from a public health perspective. Relying on this approach alone makes it difficult to understand how it relates to other facets of society. Furthermore, it is limited in its explanation of the tradition because it only focuses on the religious understanding of such unions.
Based on the views highlighted in this paper, child marriage in Egypt is a violation of human rights. A combination of extreme poverty, retrogressive cultural practices, and lax laws has contributed to the abatement of this problem. These social drivers of the vice inform some of the views highlighted by multiple authors in this review because they strive to examine the root causes of the issue. Financial concerns and cultural factors are the top reasons for the continuation of the practice in modern Egyptian society. Researchers have suggested that educating the public about the negative effects of the tradition and formulating progressive laws that would criminalize the practice are practical solutions for stopping the vice. As highlighted in earlier sections of this review, an exploration of effective ways to solve this problem in Egypt would provide a good point of reference for other Middle East nations that also suffer from the same social vice because Egypt is one of the most influential states in the region.
Bravo, M., Martinez, P., & Ruiz, I. (2014). Arranged marriages: Women for sale. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 13(2), 564-569.
Elden, N., & Mosleh, H. (2015). Impact of change in the law on child marriage in Egypt a study in two Egyptian governorates. The Egyptian Journal of Community Medicine, 3(4), 25-37.
Khater, E., & ZeinEldin. R. (2013). A simulation approach for human fertility measurement. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 3(11), 33-43.
Maswikwa, B., Richter, L., Kaufman, J., & Nandi, A. (2015). Minimum marriage age laws and the prevalence of child marriage and adolescent birth: Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa. International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 41(2), 58–68.
Montazeri, S., Gharacheh, M., Mohammadi, N., Rad, J., & Ardabili, H. (2016). Determinants of early marriage from married girls’ perspectives in Iranian setting: A qualitative study. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2(1), 1-8.
Sowey, H. (2017). From an emic perspective: Exploring consent in forced marriage law. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 3(5), 1-10.
Walker, J. (2015). Engaging Islamic opinion leaders on child marriage: Preliminary results from pilot projects in Nigeria. The Review of Faith & International Affairs, 13(1), 1-10.
Wijffelman, A. (2017). Child marriage and family reunification: An analysis under the European Convention on Human Rights and Dutch Forced Marriage Prevention Act. Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, 1(2), 1-10.
Wodon, Q. (2015). Child marriage, family law, and religion: An introduction to the fall 2015 issue. The Review of Faith and International Affairs, 13(1), 1-10.
Yount, K., Crandall, A., Cheong, Y., Osypuk, T., Bates, L., Naved, R. T., & Schuler, S. R. (2016). Child marriage and intimate partner violence in rural Bangladesh: A longitudinal multilevel analysis. Demography, 53(6), 1821–1852.