A top official in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has sparked controversy and heavy criticism over her stance on the legal age of marriage for girls.
On Al-Hayah 2, a private television channel, in a show hosted by the well known Mo’taz Al-Demerdashy, Sabah Al-Sakary said that she is against the law which sets the age for girls’ marriage at 18.
She said that a girl can reach puberty at the age of nine and that the existing law deprives her of getting married for years. She did not however say that girls should get married at such young age. Al-Sakary said that as a pharmacist she meets girls who reach puberty at nine. “I’ve seen them with my own eyes,” she said.
“I am against marriage for girls at nine and I am against a law which specifies an age for marriage,” she told the Daily News Egypt. Al-Sakary was asked on the show at what age a girl can reach puberty, and she responded to the question.
She says that after setting the legal age of marriage for girls at 18, “underage marriage in the countryside increased.” Al-Sakary suggests that the solution for the problem is not a law, but to raise awareness on the rights of girls, including the right to education.
On the show, Al-Sakary gave the example of a teenage girl who became pregnant out of wedlock. When the young boy was asked to marry her he refused, because the girl was under 18 and marrying her would have been illegal.
“Marriage is not ending a girl’s life,” Al-Sakary said.
In response to Al-Sakary’s televised comments Abeer Abul’ela , the head of the media office in the National Council for Women, said “this is not just my opinion… we are going back 100 years.” She argued that the matter goes further than the physical maturity of the girl.
Abul’ela said that a girl marrying at a young age will not be able to complete her basic education, which means that she will not be able to offer her children help if they go to school. “She can carry out the house chores; she can clean, but what about the educational role?” Abul’ela doubts that such young girls can have a healthy family.
Regarding Al-Sakary’s example, Abul’ela said “so we will legalise the marriage of girls for a girl who made a mistake?”Abul’ela says that if a girl makes a such a mistake she should take responsibility for it. “The solution is to educate the girl so that she doesn’t make this mistake.”
Abul’ela said that a mother should be friends with her daughter and be easy for her daughter to talk to and trust. “It’s not about getting rid of her. This way the family is escaping their real role,” she said.