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08/07/2013

"Girls married 60 times before 18" - Egypt's Child Sex Tourism

 

YouTube video from the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood promotes women's political rights in Egypt. The NCCM says women's inequality is reflected in sham marriages for teenage girls that  are a form of child prostitution.

 

As if we needed more discouraging news out of the turmoil in Egypt, a shocking report says that thousands of teenage girls are being sold by their parents to wealthy Arab male tourists under the pretext of marriage in a barely-disguised form of child prostitution.

 “The sham nuptials may last from a couple of hours to years,” says a story entitled "Underage Girls are Egypt's Summer Rentals" by Cam McGrath from the Inter Press Service News Agency. 

“It’s a form of child prostitution in the guise of marriage,” Azza El-Ashmawy, director of the Child Anti-Trafficking Unit at the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood told the IPS.

“Some girls have been married 60 times by the time they turn 18," she said. " Most ‘marriages’ last for just a couple of days or weeks.”

McGrath explains that temporary marriages allow the male buyers to get around Islamic restrictions on pre-marital sex.

He reports that the trade has increased since Egypt’s 2011 revolution ushered in a period of economic collapse along with crumbling law enforcement.

McGrath describes the scene in  El Hawamdia, an impoverished town 20 kilometres outside of Cairo.

Well-dressed Arab men "troll the town’s pot-holed, garbage-strewn streets in their luxury cars and SUVs" as "fixers" run alongside offering them apartments -- and underage girls -- for rent.  

A NCCM survey of 2,000 families in three towns near Cairo  found that "the hefty sums paid by Arab tourists was the main motive for the high rate" of so-called “summer marriages” in these areas.

Three-quarters of the respondents said that they knew girls involved in the trade and that the number of marriages was increasing.

According to the survey, more than 80 percent of the male “spouses” were from Saudi Arabia, 10 percent from the United Arab Emirates, and four percent from Kuwait.

The IPS story says that since sexual relations with minors is illegal in Egypt, brokers forge birth certificates or substitute the identity card of a girl’s older sister.

 It says a "pleasure” marriage can be arranged for as little as 800 Egyptian pounds (about $120 Canadian dollars). 

Sandy Shinouda with the Counter-Trafficking Unit of the  International Organisation of Migration in Cairo told IPS that  most of the young girls come from large families for whom marriage to a wealthier foreigner offers an escape from poverty.

"The family considers her as a commodity,” she told the IPS. “The girls know their families have exploited them…they can understand that their parents sold them.” 

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Julian Sher is a foreign affairs and invetsigative reporter for the Star and be reached at jsher@thestar.ca and on Twitter @juliansher.

 

 

 

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The Government of Egypt does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government approved new legislation criminalizing trafficking in persons for labor and sexual exploitation. The new law represents an important step in eliminating severe forms of trafficking in persons, though its implementation is as yet untested. During the reporting period, the government made its first two convictions under the 2008 anti-trafficking amendments to the Child Law, and has raised awareness on “summer marriages,” which are often used to facilitate commercial sexual exploitation. Nevertheless, the government did not show overall adequate efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict labor trafficking offenders, and did not make progress in protecting victims of trafficking over the reporting period. The government continued to lack formal victim identification procedures and protection services; therefore, unidentified victims of trafficking may be punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government took minimal steps to combat the serious issue of involuntary domestic servitude.

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