The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) calls the minister of Justice for the application, with no exception, of Law No. 103 for the year 1976 regarding Egyptian woman marrying a foreigner, and to construct a dialogue with civil society about the protection mechanisms for Egyptian Women
Egypt’s Minister of Justice has recently issued a decision amending some provisions of the executive regulations’ decree for the Law of Documentation, No. 68 of the year 1947 amended by Law No. 103 for the year 1976. The new decision states that “male foreigners getting married to Egyptian females have to provide certificates of deposit with a periodic rate of return, as part of Group (b) of The National Bank of Egypt, in the amount of fifty thousand Egyptian pounds in the name of the Egyptian female with whom he is willing to get married. With this decision, the certificate comes as one of the legal papers required by the marriage documentation office. This decision applies only in cases when the age difference between the groom and bride exceeds twenty-five years by the time of documenting the marriage contract. ”
This decision has aroused a storm of rejection as a result of confusing two different points;
The first: ‘urfi Marriage, which is now done by organized gangs, this marriage has recently been known as “touristic marriage”. This type of marriage comes as the worst form of slavery as it involves full-fledged slavery practices. Touristic marriage happens with the existence of a broker, the bride’s guardian who benefits the most out of this marriage, and a person claiming that he is drafting the ‘urfi marriage contract. The contract drafted in these cases lacks the real meaning of marriage contract and becomes not more than a paper legalizing the act of prostitution, which is done to protect the foreign tourist husband from getting involved in any troubles with the police. Families can “marry” twice or more in less than a month with no regard to any humanitarian, ethical, or legitimate considerations. This comes as a crime that is not within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice until the Ministry of Interior gets involved to combat these gangs and submit them to justice.
The second: formal marriage, which gets documented in the offices of Ministry of Justice. This marriage has to meet certain legal conditions and one of these conditions is the minimum marriage age which is eighteen years. This formal marriage is regulated by the Ministry of Justice and for this the minister has issued a decision requiring the non-Egyptian man marrying Egyptian woman to buy her a certificate of deposit worth fifty thousand Egyptian pounds if the age difference between them exceeds twenty-five years. This decision was justified as “protecting Egyptian girls and securing their future” The media spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said.
ECWR stresses that the Documentation Law since the year 1976 prevents and delegalize marriage of non-Egyptian males to Egyptian females in cases when the age difference between the two exceeds 25 years, in accordance to Section 2 of Article 5 of Law 103 for the year 1976. Exceptions could be approved by the Minister of Justice.
But in 1993 and under pressure from the Islamic political groups, the Minister of Justice at that time unfortunately made this exception as a general rule and he made it conditioned by provide a certificate of deposit investment in the amount of 25 thousand Egyptian pounds with a periodic rate of return of the National Bank of Egypt in the amount of twenty five thousand Egyptian pounds.
In 2004, the issue was debated again and instead of canceling this exception and readopting the original law banning marriage in cases of age difference exceeding 25 years, the amount of the certificate of deposit was increased to forty thousand Egyptian pounds. As a result of this, the decision of the current Minister of Justice comes to continue adopting the exception as the rule raising the value of the certificate from forty thousand to fifty thousand Egyptian pounds.
ECWR believes that in spite of the good intentions, it does not address the problem. Increasing the money is not the most effective way to protect women from exploitation and ensure their rights; instead several procedures should be undertaken:
Firstly: Return to the original law issued in 1976, which stipulates that marriage of an Egyptian woman to a foreign man with age difference more than 25 years is not allowed, as such cases are more likely to be cases of human trafficking. There would be an exception for individual cases in which it is investigated that it’s according to women’s wish and there is no exploitation or trafficking.
Secondly: Countering all forms of human trafficking in cooperation with the police to effectively counter trafficking mobs that work with what is referred to as ‘Urfi Marriage
Thirdly: strengthen the legal and judicial system to counter “Touristic marriage” and increase penalties to counter those mobs and even guardians involved
Fourthly: Launch a societal dialogue with specialists from civil society to put guarantees for marrying foreigners’ even monetary guarantees
Fifthly: Other ministries should share the responsibility and reduce poverty
Nehad Abol Komsan, chairwoman of ECWR, it is necessary to have a dialogue between all experts from civil society with their great experience, and capacity to engage with women on all legislative frameworks pertaining to women as the personal status laws, labour laws and decision making. This shall be through the activation of women’s rights unit in the Ministry of Justice.