A 12-year-old Egyptian boy and his 11-year-old cousin are engaged to be married.
Nasser Hassan, in an attempt to “double the joy,” announced at the wedding of his eldest son that his other son Omar would marry his cousin Gharam, according to The Washington Post.
Guests at the wedding later told Egypt’s Al Watan newspaper there was “nothing inappropriate” about the news, stating it was only “an engagement, not a marriage" of the children.
A women’s rights activist did not feel the same after photos of the engaged minor couple were published.
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Reda Eldanbouki, head of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, reported the incident to the National Center for Childhood and Motherhood, a government agency. He also filed a complaint with the attorney general, requesting an investigation be launched and the parents he held accountable for this “crime.”
“[The engagement of Omar and Gharam] will only lead to an early marriage in which the girl will be deprived of equal chances to education, growth, and will isolate her from social spheres,” Eldanbouki said.
In Egypt, it is illegal to officially register a marriage for anyone younger than 18-years-old, but that does not stop child marriages from occurring.
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Nearly 17 percent of Egyptian women aged 18 to 22 were married as children, according to The World Bank. The agency found child marriages involving girls younger than 15-years-old are declining in the country.
To avoid legal punishment, many families do not register the marriages of their underage children until they reach lawful age, according to The Washington Post.
Hassan sees nothing wrong with announcing the engagement of Omar and Gharam, as it is his right as a free man.
"Omar has always loved Gharam so much that he used to say he will marry her when they grow up,” Hassan said.
He added that both children acted "beyond their years [and developed] strong feelings for each other” through Facebook and other social media.
"[They] wanted to get engaged," Hassan said.
His decision to announce the engagement now was to stop others from securing Gharam’s hand in marriage when she is older.
"They will get married when they reach the legal age," Hassan said.