16 July 2012Hundreds of underage Egyptian girls are entering temporary marriages with rich tourists during the summer in return for money for their families, The Independent reported yesterday.
The temporary wedlocks, dubbed "summer marriages," were not legally binding and terminated when the foreigners returned to their own countries.
A recent U.S. State Department report titled "Trafficking in Persons" found that wealthy men from the Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, traveled to Egypt to purchase temporary marriages with Egyptian females, including girls under the age of 18.
The "marriages" were often facilitated by the girls' parents or marriage brokers, the report said, with "bride prices" ranging between $450 and $4,500.
The State Department's report said the children involved in temporary marriages suffered both sexual servitude and forced labor as servants to their "husbands."
Egypt has laws to prevent trafficking, which makes it illegal for a foreigner to marry an Egyptian citizen if there is an age difference of more than 10 years, the Independent said. However, traffickers have determined ways to circumnavigate the legal restraints through forged documents to make brides appear older or the husbands appear younger.
The head of Alliance for Arab Women, Dr. Hoda Badran, said poverty was the main factor behind the phenomenon.
"If those families are in such a need to sell their daughters you can imagine how poor they are," she was quoted as saying. "Many times, the girl does not know she is marrying the husband just for the short term. She is young, she accepts what her family tells her."
Some men chose to take their "summer brides" to their home countries to serve as maids for their first wives in conditions comparable to slave labor. The ones left in Egypt were often shunned by society, "finding it difficult to marry in the traditional way, especially if their temporary marriage resulted in children,” the Independent's report said.