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Discriminatory Traditions Regarding Marriage in Egypt


Family is one of the fundamental institutions that regulate the functioning the society and precondition its further development. For this reason, marriage as one of the forms of creating families has always been given much attention by people. Since the first stages of the evolution of communities, different forms of marriage were introduced. However, their particular similarity was that this character of relations implied some legal basis and specific attitudes to partners. At the very beginning, religion, impacted by the peculiarities of culture, served as the primary institution that regulated marriages and introduced practices related to the issue and accepted by the population. Thus, with the development of society, the shift of priorities towards more civilized, humane, legal, and tolerant practices was observed. Unfortunately, in areas like Egypt, the situation remains complex as its population adheres to old, inhumane, and discriminative traditions regarding the marriage and partners rights in it.

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Questions related to marriage traditions have always been an ongoing issue for Egypt. The rich history of the area along with the cultural diversity and religion resulted in the formation of a specific mentality that deprived women of an opportunity to make their own choice and introduced a biased attitude to them (USAID). Today, despite numerous appeals to eliminate biased approaches and alter the situation in the sphere, the majority of citizens still adhere to old practices and prefer to ignore womens needs or desires. Egypt is engaged in the international discourse regarding human rights, social protection, etc. which means that there are some attempts to alter the situation and improve womens roles in marriage. However, there are still numerous problems that should be solved to attain success.

Arranged or Customary Marriage

For instance, the overwhelming majority of the population adheres to the practice of an arranged marriage. In other words, both partners should follow their parents orders and enter into relations that are considered appropriate by their families (Hassan). There are vigorous debates related to this kind of bond and whether it could be happy or not; however, the situation is complicated by the fact that women become rightless and are not able to resist their husbands (Hassan).

In this regard, one could observe males dominance in marriage issues. What is even worse is that many girls under 18 become brides and have to enter into relations. The fact is that customary marriage is prevalent in Egypt, and despite all governments attempts to curtail this practice, there are still many 12-year-old married girls across the country (17% of women in the state are married before 18) (Hassan). The Egyptian Child Law prohibits marriage of girls under 18, and when a girl reaches this age, her husband registers their marriage (Hassan). It could be considered a significant problem for the country the exploitation of children and their forced engagement in relations are strongly banned in the rest of the world.

Cruel Traditions

Another factor related to marriage in Egypt and its biased character is culture and practices related to relations between men and women. For instance, 92% of the female population in Egypt have suffered from Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) because of the dominance of patriarchal norms related to marriage, womens role in it, and their sexuality (“Child Marriage Around the World: Egypt”). It is an awful practice that causes critical injuries to girls’ health (the majority of women experience this procedure under 12) and psychology (“Child Marriage Around the World: Egypt”). Additionally, according to the statistics, in a significant number of cases, numerous complications might appear (USAID). At the moment, the procedure is prohibited in the state; however, people still use it to observe traditions and find an appropriate partner for their daughters.


Furthermore, in the bigger part of marriages in Egypt women remain uneducated as parents in rural areas do recognize a need for teaching their daughters (Amin). This pattern cultivates biased attitudes to relations and females inferior position (Amin). The fact is that by the traditional perspective on marriage, womens primary role remains the same as centuries ago. They have to give birth to children and take care of a house. For instance, a girl in early 20s could already have from 4 to 6 children (Amin). Regarding the peculiarities of customary relations, education is not needed for her. On the contrary, it could even prevent girls from getting married too early because of critical alterations in their mentalities and shift of priorities from the family life to a career or some other activities. Under these conditions, the unequal distribution of rights and duties in Egyptian marriages is cultivated at the very first stages of girls development. If their father decides that it is time to become a bride, females do not have a chance to resist and continue their education.

Temporary Marriages

Additionally, so-called temporary, or summer, marriages are another significant aspect of Egyptian society. Young girls parents and temporary husbands might have an agreement that outlines the term and sum needed to enter this sort of relations. Thus, in the majority of cases, summer marriages stand for prostitution or forced labor (USAID). Moreover, 11-year-old girls might be engaged in these relations as their parents will acquire a particular sum of money from a potential husband (USAID). Unfortunately, the practice remains popular in Egypt and rural areas where the level of income is low, and individuals use it as a way to support their families (USAID). The government struggles against these cases of prostitution and child abuse; however, the roots of the problem and its traditional character complicate the issue and provide numerous opportunities for marriage brokers to find new potential victims.

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In general, abuse is another distinctive feature of marriage in Egypt. A relevant study demonstrates that 29% of all married girls under 18 have experienced violence or have been beaten by their husbands sometimes even during pregnancy (“Country Fact Sheet: Egypt”). Under these conditions, physical abuse becomes an integral part of relations between men and women in the state. It mainly comes from females’ inability to resist husbands, their vulnerability, and age (Hassan). These factors stimulate the growth of violence and slow down the speed of emancipation in Egypt (“Country Fact Sheet: Egypt”). Moreover, violent behaviors are not condemned by the society that accepts mens right to punish wives and beat them. Despite governmental efforts to eliminate violence, the situation remains difficult as victims prefer not to complain because of their mentality of fear of consequences.

Social Pressure

Nevertheless, there is a particular percentage of marriages contracted because of social pressure or traditions. The fact is that society encourages people to engage in relations. Otherwise, a person might feel isolated from the community (Amin). A widow or a middle-aged woman could be labeled a spinster if she is not married (Amin). The same deals with men. They must get married to attain success and become appreciated by society. Under these conditions, society becomes a significant factor that impacts individuals and makes them enter relations.


Finally, marriage in Egypt experiences an overwhelming influence of Islam as 90% of its population adheres to this religion. Additionally, Sharia Law becomes an essential factor that determines males’ and females’ roles in relations and outlines their duties. According to the statistics, the majority of marriages in Egypt rests on regulations provided by Islam (Hassan). It creates the basis for the preservation of the existing situation.


Altogether, the situation regarding relations between men and women remains complex in Egypt. It could be described as the state of traditions where customary marriage is still popular. Moreover, the problem of child marriage is extremely important for the area as many girls get married under 18 and suffer from abuse, discrimination, and have a vulnerable position. The government of the state recognizes the existing problem and tries to improve the situation by introducing the minimum legal age for marriage (18 years) and prohibiting inhumane practices like FGM/C. Moreover, it wants to guarantee that every person will be able to educate and acquire needed knowledge. However, there are no signs of significant improvement as traditions regarding the sphere of marriage became a part of peoples mentality and resulted in the appearance of a particular perspective on a woman, her role in relations, marriage, and her rights. Under these conditions, further investigation of the sphere is needed to find the roots of the problem and analyze them.

Works Cited

Amin, Shahira. ” Egypt Moves Toward Criminalizing Child Marriage.” Al-Monitor. 2017, Web.

“Child Marriage Around the World: Egypt.” Girls Not Brides, Web.

“Country Fact Sheet: Egypt.” Girls Not Brides, Web.

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Hassan, Khalid. ” Is Egypt Ready to End Underage Marriage?” Al-Monitor. 2017, Web.

USAID. “Counter Trafficking in Persons Policy.” 2012, Web.

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