Tag Archives: Forced Marriages

Iraq’s New Child Marriage Bill Would Allow Men to Marry 9-Year-Olds

iraq

A draft law being considered in Iraq would allow girls as young as nine to get married, and strip all women of significant human rights.

by  SAMEER N. YACOUB and SINAN SALAHEDDIN

BAGHDAD (AP) — A contentious draft law being considered in Iraq could open the door to girls as young as nine getting married and would require wives to submit to sex on their husband’s whim, provoking outrage from rights activists and many Iraqis who see it as a step backward for women’s rights.

The measure, aimed at creating different laws for Iraq’s majority Shiite population, could further fray the country’s divisions amid some of the worst bloodshed since the sectarian fighting that nearly ripped the country apart after the U.S.-led invasion. It also comes as more and more children under 18 get married in the country.

“That law represents a crime against humanity and childhood,” prominent Iraqi human rights activist Hana Adwar told The Associated Press. “Married underage girls are subjected to physical and psychological suffering.

Iraqi law now sets the legal age for marriage at 18 without parental approval. Girls as young as 15 can be married only with a guardian’s approval.

The proposed new measure, known as the Jaafari Personal Status Law, is based on the principles of a Shiite school of religious law founded by Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth Shiite imam. Iraq’s Justice Ministry late last year introduced the draft measure to the Cabinet, which approved it last month despite strong opposition by rights groups and activists.

The draft law does not set a minimum age for marriage. Instead, it mentions an age in a section on divorce, setting rules for divorces of girls who have reached the age of 9 years in the lunar Islamic calendar. It also says that’s the age girls reach puberty. Since the Islamic calendar year is 10 or 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, that would be the equivalent of 8 years and 8 months old. The bill makes the father the only parent with the right to accept or refuse the marriage proposal.

Critics of the bill believe that its authors slipped the age into the divorce section as a backhanded way to allow marriages of girls that young. Already, government statistics show that nearly 25 percent of marriages in Iraq involved someone under the age of 18 in 2011, up from 21 percent in 2001 and 15 percent in 1997. Planning Ministry spokesman Abdul-Zahra Hendawi said the practice of underage marriage is particularly prevalent in rural areas and some provinces where illiteracy is high.

Also under the proposed measure, a husband can have sex with his wife regardless of her consent. The bill also prevents women from leaving the house without their husband’s permission, would restrict women’s rights in matters of parental custody after divorce and make it easier for men to take multiple wives.

Main Entry ImageIn this Thursday, March 13, 2014 photo, women pass by a banner for the Jaafari Personal Status Law in Baghdad, Iraq. The Arabic on the banner reads, “The Jaafari Personal Status Law is for you and all of us.”

Parliament must still ratify the bill before it becomes law. That is unlikely to happen before parliamentary elections scheduled for April 30, though the Cabinet support suggests it remains a priority for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s administration. Al-Maliki is widely expected to seek a third term.

Baghdad-based analyst Hadi Jalo suggested that election campaigning might be behind the proposal.

“Some influential Shiite politicians have the impression that they should do their best to make any achievement that would end the injustice that had been done against the Shiites in the past,” Jalo said.

The formerly repressed Shiite majority came to power after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime. Since then, Shiite religious and political leaders have encouraged followers to pour in millions into streets for religious rituals, a show of their strength.

Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimmari, a Shiite, has brushed off the criticism of the bill. His office introduced a companion bill that calls for the establishment of special Shiite courts that would be tied to the sect’s religious leadership.

Al-Shimmari insists that the bill is designed to end injustices faced by Iraqi women in past decades, and that it could help prevent illicit child marriage outside established legal systems.

“By introducing this draft law, we want to limit or prevent such practices,” al-Shimmari said.

But Sunni female lawmaker Likaa Wardi believes it violates women’s and children’s rights and creates divisions in society.

“The Jaffari law will pave the way to the establishments of courts for Shiites only, and this will force others sects to form their own courts. This move will widen the rift among the Iraqi people,” Wardi said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch also strongly criticized the law this week.

“Passage of the Jaafari law would be a disastrous and discriminatory step backward for Iraq’s women and girls,” deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement. “This personal status law would only entrench Iraq’s divisions while the government claims to support equal rights for all.”

It is unclear how much support the bill enjoys among Iraqi Shiites, but Jalo, the analyst, believes that it would face opposition from secular members of the sect.

Qais Raheem, a Shiite government employee living in eastern Baghdad, said the draft bill contradicts the principles of a modern society.

“The government officials have come up with this backward law instead of combating corruption and terrorism,” said Raheem who has four children, including two teenage girls. “This law legalizes the rape and we should all reject it.”

Iraq Child Marriage Bill

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Britain’s Underage Muslim Marriage Epidemic

The imam of Birmingham’s Central Jamia Masjid Ghamkol Sharif Mosque (pictured above) agreed to perform the marriage of a 14-year-old girl against her will.

by Soeren Kern

More than a dozen Muslim clerics at some of the biggest mosques in Britain have been caught on camera agreeing to marry off girls as young as 14.

Undercover reporters filming a documentary about the prevalence of forced and underage marriage in Britain for the television program ITV Exposure secretly recorded 18 Muslim imams agreeing to perform an Islamic marriage, known as a nikah, between a 14-year-old girl and an older man.

Campaigners against forced marriage — which is not yet a crime in Britain — say thousands of underage girls — including some under the age of five — are being forced to marry against their will in Muslim nikahs every year, and that the examples exposed by the documentary represent just “the tip of the iceberg.”

The documentary, entitled “Forced to Marry,” was first broadcast on October 9 and involves two reporters posing as the mother and brother of a 14-year-old girl to be married to an older man. The reporters contacted 56 mosques across Britain and asked clerics to perform a nikah. The imams were specifically told that the “bride” did not consent to the marriage to an older man from London.

Although the legal age for marriage in Britain is 16, according to Islamic Sharia law girls can marry once they reach puberty. The imams who agreed to marry the girl openly mocked the legitimacy of British law, reflecting the rise of a parallel Islamic legal system in Britain.

One of the Muslim clerics who agreed to perform the underage marriage is Mohammed Shahid Akhtar, the imam of the Central Jamia Masjid Ghamkol Sharif Mosque in Birmingham, the second-largest mosque in Britain with a capacity of more than 5,000 worshippers.

On being informed that the girl did not want to get married, Akhtar replied: “She’s 14. By Sharia, grace of God, she’s legal to get married. Obviously Islam has made it easy for us. There is nothing against that. We’re doing it because it’s okay through Islam.”

The documentary also shows Akhtar expressing his contempt for British marriage laws: “You’ve got the kaffirs[non-believers], the law, the English people that … you know, you can’t get married twice but, by the grace of God, we can get married four times.”

An undercover UK investigation revealed that Imams at some of Britain's biggest mosques were willing to marry off girls as young as 14. (Shutterstock)

An undercover UK investigation revealed that Imams at some of Britain’s biggest mosques were willing to marry off girls as young as 14. (Shutterstock)

Another cleric who agreed to marry the 14 year old girl is Mufti Shams al-Huda al-Misbahi, who preaches at the Jamia Masjid Kanzul Iman Mosque in Heckmondwike, a town near Leeds in north-central England.

When the undercover reporter, posing as the brother of the girl to be married, says, “She’s not willing now, but she will be,” Misbahi responds: “If you make her willing, she will be willing.” He is then filmed saying that he would perform the marriage without providing an official marriage certificate valid under British law. “We’ll make everything okay by Islam. We’ll write down and put it in our records.” Misbahi goes on to tell the undercover reporters that the girl will be able to live with her new husband after the ceremony.

Misbahi is a senior Muslim cleric who has worked with the West Yorkshire Police as an advisor on community cohesion, a British concept that refers to the integration of Muslim immigrants within a multicultural society. Before being caught on camera advocating forced marriage, Misbahi had publicly condemned the practice for many years.

Another imam at the Al Quba Mosque and Shahporan Islamic Center in Manchester was filmed saying: “I can get you someone to do the nikah for you, that’s not going to be a problem.”

The documentary includes an interview with Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Northwest England. “Forced marriage is probably the last form of slavery in the UK,” he says.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom Charity which educates children about forced marriage, said: “I think whoever is involved in this, you are talking about child abuse and exploitation and it is something we need to stop. People are too culturally sensitive when dealing with this, they are worried about offending particular groups. We have to say it’s immoral and illegal and stamp it out. I think what we are hearing about is the tip of the iceberg, it is a huge problem.”

At least 250 children are known to have been subjected to forced marriage in Britain in 2012, including a two-year-old girl who is believed to be the country’s youngest victim of the practice.

The statistics were provided by the British government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) as part of an ongoing effort to create a law that would criminalize forced marriage in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The custom is already illegal in Scotland.

Overall, the FMU said it gave advice or support related to nearly 1,500 cases of forced marriage during 2012, although experts say the vast majority of forced marriages in Britain go unreported. A study produced by NatCen Social Research, a British think tank, estimates that the real number of forced marriages in Britain probably exceeds 8,000 per year.

Most of the instances of forced marriage in Britain involve Muslim families from South Asia, particularly Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Many of the cases involve Muslim children who are taken abroad by their parents and forced to marry against their will. During the 2013 summer holidays, for example, an average of five girls were believed to have been taken out of Britain every day to be forcibly married abroad. Forced marriages also often involve horrors such as kidnapping, beatings and rape.

Prime Minister David Cameron has compared the practice of forced marriage to modern day slavery and has said people should not “shy away” from addressing the issue because of political correctness. “For too long in this country we have thought, ‘Well, it’s a cultural practice and we just have to run with it,'” Cameron said. “We don’t. It’s a crime.”

In May 2013, Cameron submitted a bill to Parliament that would make forcing someone to marry a specific criminal offense. The measure is part of the Anti-Social Behavior, Crime and Policing Bill slowly working its way through the House of Commons, the lower house of the British Parliament.

To be sure, not everyone in Britain is in favor of making forced marriage a crime. According to a research document published by the House of Commons Library on September 16, 2013, some campaigners on the issue are worried that victims could be deterred from coming forward because they will not want to risk relatives going to prison. Others argue it may lead to youngsters being taken overseas at an earlier age to be put through forced marriages. Still others question how allegations of forced marriage would be proven to the criminal standard of proof: beyond reasonable doubt.

Another reason why Britain is taking so long to outlaw forced marriage involves multicultural sensitivities. Many promoters of British multiculturalism say the move to criminalize forced marriage will unfairly single out Muslims.

journal article entitled “A Civil Rather than Criminal Offence? Forced Marriage, Harm and the Politics of Multiculturalism in the UK” argues that the reluctance in Britain to criminalize forced marriage is due, in part, to the influence that multicultural ideals have had on current British approaches to the practice.

The article also attributes the British preference for civil remedies rather than criminal legislation to the tendency of the state to conceptualize the harms of forced marriage principally in terms of a violation of choice, rather than as a matter of long-term violence against women.

The question arises as to whether, by adopting such an approach, the state may be giving rise to a two-tier system of rights, in which minority group women are afforded a lesser protection of their human rights, as a result of their racial or cultural background.

Back in 1999, former Labour Party Home Office Minister Mike O’Brien criticized the lack of action on the problem forced marriages. “Multicultural sensitivity is no excuse for moral blindness,” he said.

Fast-forward to 2013. In an interview with the Sunday Times on October 6, Jasvinder Sanghera, an activist who has been instrumental in the decades-long campaign to criminalize forced marriage in Britain, sums it up this way: The issue has become “wrapped up in this moral blindness of cultural sensitivity.”

 

 

Iran Passes “Pedophilia” Law Allowing Men to Marry Their 13-Year-Old Adopted Daughters

Iran passes a law allowing men to marry their 13-year-old adopted daughters just as the country’s new president touts himself as a moderate

True ideology: President Hassan Rouhani has portrayed himself as a moderate but the new law gives indications that he does not plan on stopping the conservative clerics in the Iranian parliament

True ideology: President Hassan Rouhani has portrayed himself as a moderate but the new law gives indications that he does not plan on stopping the conservative clerics in the Iranian parliament

By MEGHAN KENEALLY

A new law in Iran that allows men to marry their adopted daughters at the age of 13 has caused major concern that the country’s new president is not as progressive as originally thought.

President Hassan Rouhani has been hailed as a new moderate voice in the controversial Middle Eastern government but the approval of the new law shows that the extreme beliefs in the intolerant country have not evaporated.

The law was approved by the Iranian members of parliament and maintains that girls can marry with the permission of their father at the age of 13 and young boys at the age of 15.

Danger to children: The new law will allow for girls as young as 13 to get married and those younger than that age only require the permission of their fathers to do so (stock picture of young girls in Tehran)

Danger to children: The new law will allow for girls as young as 13 to get married and those younger than that age only require the permission of their fathers to do so (stock picture of young girls in Tehran)

The timing of the law being passed through the first legal hurdle, as reported by The Guardian, comes just days after Rouhani’s landmark phone call with President Obama- the first between the two countries leaders in 34 years- and an interview with CNN where he admitted the existence of the Holocaust- something that has long been denied by the religious extremists in Iran.

The law in question pertains to the legal marriage age, but the concern about incest is an additional factor for human rights advocates.

‘This bill is legalizing pedophilia,’ lawyer Shadi Sadr, who works for the group Justice for Iran, told the paper.

‘It’s not part of the Iranian culture to marry your adopted child. Obviously incest exists in Iran more or less as it happens in other countries across the world, but this bill is legalizing pedophilia and is endangering our children and normalizing this crime in our culture.’

Public steps: During an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Rouhani made the landmark step of acknowledging the Holocaust, which was previously denied by more conservative administrations

Public steps: During an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Rouhani made the landmark step of acknowledging the Holocaust, which was previously denied by more conservative administrations

Iranian officials argue that the question of fathers marrying their adopted daughters comes out of practicality since adopted girls are forced to wear a hijab around their fathers and mothers must wear it around their adopted sons.

Ms Sadr argues that it is just a legislative ploy to get around the normal bounds of a paternal relationship- with the sexual aspect of a marriage still in full play even though it is being publicly downplayed.

‘With this bill, you can be a pedophile and get your bait in the pretext of adopting children,’ she said.

There is some question whether the law will get the final stamp of approval by the country’s Governing Council, but the prospect has activists outraged.

Underage marriage is a real concern in the country as the state news agency reported that there were 42,000 children between the ages of 10 and 14 who were married in 2010.

If it passes through the final legal hurdles to become enforceable, the law will come as a step back following a recent period of apparent modernization in Iran.

Questionable move: President Obama faced immediate criticism over his call with Rouhani from Republicans in the budget fight but now this law may give their argument another facet

Questionable move: President Obama faced immediate criticism over his call with Rouhani from Republicans in the budget fight but now this law may give their argument another facet

After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stepped down from power in August, Rouhani has made clear efforts to be considered a progressive leader by launching an official Twitter account- and making it visible to the Iranian public who have limited internet access.

The biggest turning point undoubtedly came when President Obama announced that the two had a phone conversation in the days leading up to the federal government shutdown on Monday evening.

Obama said that the conversation ‘underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but also indicates the prospect of moving on that difficult history.’

Forced marriages rampant in Ontario

 

Hundreds of women forced into arranged marriages in Ontario: Study

Sandeep Chand experienced the turmoil of being forced into an unwanted marriage in 2006. She says forced marriage is a global problem, and one more common than most people think.

By Debra Black

A groundbreaking three-year study of forced marriage in Ontario has found more than 200 women who were wed against their will, a practice the report’s authors say highlights serious gaps in services.

The first-of-its-kind report, being released at a Toronto news conference Friday, was conducted by the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, which questioned 30 social service agencies about the practice.

It found 219 reported cases between 2010 and 2012, with 97 per cent of the victims being women. The survey found the majority of victims, 81 per cent, were between 16 and 34 years old.

The report found that parents, siblings, extended family, grandparents and religious leaders were all involved in pushing individuals into forced marriage. The reasons were mostly cultural (66 per cent), but honour, money and immigration purposes were also behind some forced marriages.

Haya, a woman now living in Mississauga who asked that her last name not be used, was forced to flee when her father decided to marry her off to a cousin. Sixteen at the time, she and her family were deported from Canada to Pakistan four years ago. It was there, she said, that her father announced the arranged marriage.

She was held “prisoner” in her grandmother’s house. Her father confiscated her Pakistani passport. Eventually she escaped from Karachi to Islamabad, where she was able to contact Canadian officials, who gave her a temporary visa to return to Canada.

Now 20, she has applied for permanent resident status. She says she’s “grateful” to the Canadian officials who helped her. “I didn’t have any status in Canada. Technically, they didn’t have to help me. I was a Pakistani citizen.”

According to the report, however, most victims were Canadian citizens (44 percent) or permanent residents (41 per cent). Four per cent of cases involved people who did not have legal status in Canada; 7 per cent were refugee claimants, foreign residents or individuals with a visitor or temporary work visa.

The survey found that many victims forced into marriage experienced some form of violence, including threats (68 per cent), physical violence (59 per cent), sexual violence (26 per cent) and stalking (20 per cent).

“The results we got back show that this is an issue across a number of communities in Ontario,” says Shalini Konanur, executive director and lawyer at the South Asian Legal Clinic.

“People need to realize that victims of forced marriages are probably some of the most marginalized clients we deal with,” she said. “They have very little income, very little power and ability to remedy or intervene on their own.”

The largest number of forced marriages was within the Muslim community with 103 victims from more than 30 countries of origin, including Afghanistan, Palestine, Senegal, Swaziland, Turkey and the United Kingdom, as well as Canada. Forty-four were Hindu, 30 were Sikh and 12 Christian.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg, because so many cases go unreported,” said Sandeep Chand, an outspoken advocate for spreading awareness about forced marriage. A resident of Victoria, B.C., she was forcibly married in 2006.

“It’s prevalent everywhere,” she said. “It’s not just a South Asian issue. “It’s a global issue; it’s a human rights issue.”

Forced marriage has become a large problem in the United Kingdom. The government has a unit devoted to dealing with forced marriages, which fielded 400 cases between June and August last year, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper last month. The article cited a charity group that is advising young women at risk of being spirited abroad for forced marriage to conceal a spoon in their underwear, to set off scanners at airport security and give them a chance to safely tell authorities.

Konanur, of the South Asian clinic, defines forced marriage as “essentially where one or both of the participants are entering into the marriage without consent.”

Canada has taken a leadership role at the United Nations opposing child and forced marriage, says Konanur. But she wants the government to be as forceful domestically.

Canada has no legislation specific to forced marriage, the report states.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs is doing quite an amazing job with helping Canadians to come back to Canada, but the problem is (there is) no consistency on how they approach these cases from country to country.”

She would like to see a uniform policy to help government officials understand forced marriage and intervene abroad in the same way, regardless of the country the victim is in.

The report also calls for better training for teachers, guidance counsellors, health professionals and police, and for including forced marriage in the definition of “family violence” when an applicant seeks priority in getting subsidized housing.

It also calls for better protection for persons without legal resident status.

The authors say regulations about spousal sponsorship, which makes attaining permanent residency conditional on living with the spouse, should be changed to allow an exemption for forced marriage, alongside the existing exemption for domestic violence.

Among other findings, the survey found 64 percent of the Canadian citizens forced into marriage had been living here longer than 10 years; 22 per cent had been here between seven and 10 years.

“One day I hope that people will understand more about forced marriage and how common it is,” Chand said, “because it happens in everyone’s backyard. We just don’t recognize the signs.”

 

 

Spoons in Underwear Can Potentially Stop Forced Marriages

Britain has put airport staff on alert to spot potential victims of forced marriage. (File photo: AFP)

As Britain puts airport staff on alert to spot potential victims of forced marriage, one campaigning group says the trick of putting a spoon in their underwear has saved some youngsters from a forced union in their South Asian ancestral homelands.

The concealed spoon sets off the metal detector at the airport in Britain and the teenagers can be taken away from their parents to be searched — a last chance to escape a largely hidden practice wrecking the lives of unknown thousands of British youths.

The British school summer holidays, now well under way, mark a peak in reports of young people — typically girls aged 15 and 16 — being taken abroad on “holiday,” for a marriage without consent, the government says.

The bleep at airport security may be the last chance they get to escape a marriage to someone they have never met in a country they have never seen.

The spoon trick is the brainchild of the Karma Nirvana charity, which supports victims and survivors of forced marriage and honor-based abuse.

Based in Derby, central England, it fields 6,500 calls per year from around Britain but has almost reached that point so far in 2013 as awareness of the issue grows.

When petrified youngsters ring, “if they don’t know exactly when it may happen or if it’s going to happen, we advise them to put a spoon in their underwear,” said Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana’s operations manager.

“When they go though security, it will highlight this object in a private area and, if 16 or over, they will be taken to a safe space where they have that one last opportunity to disclose they’re being forced to marry,” she told AFP.

“We’ve had people ring and that it’s helped them and got them out of a dangerous situation. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do with your family around you — but they won’t be aware you have done it. It’s a safe way.”

The charity is working with airports — so far London Heathrow, Liverpool and Glasgow, with Birmingham to come — to spot potential signs, such as one-way tickets, the time of year, age of the person and whether they look uncomfortable.

“These are quite general points, but there are things that if you look collectively lead you to believe something more sinister is going on,” said Rattu.

People who come forward can be escorted out of a secure airport exit to help outside.

Marriages without consent, or their refusal, have led to suicides and so-called honour killings, shocking a nation widely deemed to have successfully absorbed immigrant communities and customs.

Officials fear the number of victims coming forward is just the tip of the iceberg, with few community leaders prepared to speak out and risk losing their support base.

One woman, whose identity was protected by Essex Police in southeast England, was forced to get married in India.

She said she was threatened by her father “because he said if I thought about running away he would find me and kill me.”

“I was shipped off with a total stranger.

“That night I was raped by my husband and this abuse continued for about eight and half years of my life.”

She eventually fled.

Last year, the Foreign Office’s Forced Marriage Unit dealt with some 1,500 cases — 18 percent of them men.

A third of cases involved children aged under 17. The oldest victim was aged 71; the youngest just two.

The cases related to 60 countries: almost half were linked to Pakistan, 11 percent to Bangladesh, eight percent to India, and two percent to Afghanistan. Other countries were Somalia, Turkey and Iraq.

Calls to Karma Nirvana tend to spike before the British school summer holidays and again at the end, said Rattu.

“The holidays are a really good time for young people to go missing because there is nobody accounting for where they are at school,” she said.
Since Ramadan ended last week, calls have risen again, including one from an 18-year-old who has fallen pregnant and her family is trying force her into marriage to conceal it.

Burdened by South Asian codes of “izzat,” or family honour, youngsters can be under extreme physical and emotional duress to marry relatives in a culture and country they were not brought up in.

If they refuse, they are often threatened with being thrown out of the family — or worse. “It really takes a brave person to stand up against their family,” said Rattu.


Some Girls Have Been Married 60 Times by the Time They Turn 18

An Egyptian woman peers from behind a curtain in Cairo. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

An Egyptian woman peers from behind a curtain in Cairo. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

By Max Fisher

When young girls are sold into marriage, as 38,000 are every day, they can expect a life with no education and few opportunities, little public autonomy outside of their adult husband’s control and an increased risk of death from pregnancy or childbirth, which are the number one killer of girls age 15 to 18 in the developing world. One in seven girls born in the developing world is married by age 15, usually sold by her family.

But some girls who grow up in Egypt’s poor rural communities face an even scarier sort of child marriage: the temporary kind. Sex tourism to Egypt tends to spike in the summer, when wealthy men from Gulf countries flood into Egypt and thousands of underage girls are sold by their parents into temporary “marriages,” according to a story by Inter Press Service.

Child sex tourism is difficult to track, but the United Nations estimates that it affects two million children every year, often in countries that are poor but have preexisting tourism infrastructure, such as ThailandIndia, Costa Rica and others.

 Egypt’s illegal child sex tourism trade appears to have put a regional-friendly spin on the practice by portraying the buying and selling of children as a form of marriage, thus giving them a thin veneer of religious acceptability by circumventing Islamic rules against pre-marital sex. (Despite a 2008 law banning child marriages, enforcement is thought to be low and an Egyptian official told the Inter Press Service that’s it’s nearly ceased since the chaos of the 2011 revolution.) Child marriages are, after all, somewhat common in Arab countries, although not nearly as common as in neighboring regions. And such child marriages often involve “dowries” that human trafficking activists say are akin to a purchase price.

By making the unions temporary, Egyptian child sex tourism manages to capture much of the worst of child marriage and child prostitution. Girls still bear the long-term risks of child marriages – some are expected to double as domestic workers – as well as the routines of children sold for sex in other countries. “Some girls have been married 60 times by the time they turn 18,” an Egyptian government official who works on the issue told Inter Press Service. “Most ‘marriages’ last for just a couple of days or weeks.”

An investigation by an Egyptian government body, the Child Anti-Trafficking Unit at the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, found that 75 percent of respondents in surveyed rural communities knew girls who were involved in the trade and that most believed that rate was increasing. It estimated that the vast majority of the buyers came from Gulf countries, with 81 percent from Saudi Arabia, 10 percent from the United Arab Emirate and 4 percent from Kuwait.

The study estimates that a summer-long marriage, usually lasting the duration of a seasonal Gulf tourist’s visit, cost about $2,800 to $10,000. The unions can at times last a year or two, though; the “bride” is typically expected to travel back to her buyer’s home country where she may work as a domestic. One-day marriages can cost as little as $115.

Egypt’s economy has been in free-fall since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, with unemployment rising and public services declining. Rural families, driven apparently by a sense that the practice is socially acceptable and a desperate need for income, pressure daughters to enter the trade at puberty, according to the government study. “The girls know their families have exploited them,” the Egyptian official told Inter Press Service. “They can understand that their parents sold them.”