Cablegate: Egypt Prosecutes Facilitators of Under-Age

DE RUEHEG #2083 3070947
P 030947Z NOV 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 002083



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/03/2029


Classified By: Economic-Political Minister-Counselor Donald A. Blome for reasons 1.4 (d).
1. Key Points: -- (SBU) On October 19, an Egyptian court in Al Gharbeya Governorate (in the Nile Delta region) sentenced a marriage registrar, or "ma'zoun," to two years in prison, under the provisions of the 2008 amendment to Egypt's child law, for registering the marriages of 144 girls under the age of 18. According to local press reports, many of the 144 marriages involved short-term relationships between under-age Egyptian girls and male tourists from Arabian Gulf countries. The court sentenced the registrar to two years in prison. -- (SBU) On October 22, the court convicted a second marriage registrar of the same offense and sentenced him to two years in prison. According to press reports, he illegally registered the marriages of 122 under-age girls. -- (C) According to Dr. Aza Ashmawy, Director of the National Council on Childhood and Motherhood's (NCCM) anti-trafficking program, the prosecutions stemmed in part from telephone calls to the NCCM's anti-trafficking hotline and a subsequent investigation - which is ongoing - conducted in cooperation with Egypt's Ministry of Interior (MOI) and Office of Public Prosecutor.

2. (C) Comment: Egyptian experts on human trafficking point to short-term marriages between Egyptian girls under the age of 18 and wealthy visitors from other Arab countries - often referred to as "summer marriages" - as one of Egypt's more significant trafficking issues. The 2008 child law amendments were directed, in part, at combating this practice. The recent investigation and prosecution of marriage registrars appears to signal that the GoE is serious about combating "summer marriages," despite societal resistance, both from families who benefit financially and some religious leaders - especially conservative preachers - who view the GoE's regulation of the age of marriage and of ma'zouns, who have a dual civil and religious role, as un-Islamic. ------------------------------ "Summer Marriage" Convictions ------------------------------

3. (SBU) On October 19, an Egyptian court convicted a marriage register of illegally registering 144 marriages of girls under the age of 18. On October 22, the same court convicted a second registrar of illegally registering the marriages of 122 under-age girls. The court sentenced both to two years in prison. The registrars' convictions were based on Article 5 of the 2008 amendments to Egypt's child law, which raised the legal age of marriage to 18 and criminalized the registration of under-age marriages. According to media reports, the Public Prosecutor referred three additional marriage registrars to a court in Dakheleya Governorate for trial on similar charges.

4. (C) On October 28, the NCCM's Dr. Ashmawy told us that the convictions resulted from an investigation launched in recent months prompted in part by reports received on NCCM's "trafficking hotline," including one from a domestic worker who reported that her employer had forced her into multiple temporary marriages. According to Dr. Ashmawy, the marriages the "ma'zouns" were convicted of illegally registering occurred in the "last three months." Dr. Ashmawy said the investigation is ongoing and that she expects additional prosecutions. She views the convictions as significant for a number of reasons; they are the first ever of marriage registrars for recording under-age marriages; the MOI cooperated fully in the investigations, signaling the GOE's commitment to combating "summer marriages;" and the prosecutions and relatively stiff sentences will serve as a warning to Egypt's marriage registrars, making "summer marriages" more difficult. Scobey

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