egypt imam 27 girls
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Earlier this week, Egypt's Administrative Prosecution Authority referred an imam to immediate trial after he was accused of marrying off 27 minor girls, Al Masry El Yawm reported

This came after a victim's mother filed a complaint against Sheikh Faraj Mostafa Faraj Saqr, an imam at and preacher in Al Gharibya governorate, accusing him of illegally officiating her underage daughter's marriage.

Speaking to a local television, the mother said she had begged Saqr not to marry off her 16-year-old daughter, after her father and male relatives arranged for her to marry an older man. 

"I told him it wasn't right to marry her off at such a young age, and he responded saying there's absolutely nothing wrong with it."

The mother went on to explain that Saqr forged official documents at his mosque and received large sums of money in return for his "services". 

Soon after, he was referred to the prosecution and Egypt's Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs banned Saqr from preaching. 

In their official statement on the matter, the Ministry said that Saqr, who is a registered imam, was referred to prosecution after it was confirmed that he had officiated several illegal marriages. 

Child marriage is considered a violation of Egypt's constitution. It also goes against the country's Child and Civil Status laws which state that the legal age for marriage is 18. 

The child victim is now a divorced single mother...

The victim, whose mother went public with the case, leading to Saqr's arrest, also spoke out on television. 

"I married thinking my husband and his family would treat me well because we're related. They didn't," she said. 

"I was married a few months before I turned 16. Now, I am a divorced single mother. I don't even know how to handle my own child, my mother helps with that," she added. 

Lowering marital age is still up for debate in Egypt

In recent weeks, several extreme preachers, and even an Egyptian MP have called on authorities to lower the marital age in Egypt. 

Earlier last month, Egyptian preacher Muftah Mohammad Maarouf, also known as "Abu Yahya," stated that it's absolutely okay for a newborn girl to be married off by her father - even at such a young age.

Weeks before that, Egyptian MP Ahmen Samih, an independent MP representing the Giza district of Al-Talbiya, proposed a draft law aimed at lowering the marital age for females in Egypt from the current 18 to 16. 

The controversial draft law sparked controversy and debate across the country. It faced an intense backlash from fellow MPs and women's rights activists who specified it as 'regressive.'

Even though Egypt's government has yet to vote on the draft law, it seems unlikely for it to pass, especially given the fact that Egypt's president Abdel Fatah El Sisi and several MPs have already taken a strong stand against it.

Child marriage continues to be a major global problem

slavery women 2016
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Globally, UNICEF says 39,000 child marriages occur daily.

Child marriage is a problem in countries around the world, including the United States

According to the World Economic Forum, 117 countries around the world allow child marriages, either because there is no age specification or it is allowed under certain circumstances.

Globally, UNICEF says 39,000 child marriages occur daily. 

While one in three girls in the developing world are forced into marriage before the age of 18.

In recently released global slavery statistics, forced marriage was included for the first time showing ‘money and debt’ to be at the heart of the exploitation.

The figures, from the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation revealed that 15.4 million people were forced into marriage last year. 

Children account for 10 million of the overall 40.3 million total, while women and girls accounted for 71% or 29 million of all modern slavery victims in 2016.

As the problem persists globally, individuals and organizations have been fighting against the practice in the Arab world. 

In July, members of Saudi Arabia's Shura Council sent a letter to the Justice Ministry demanding that marriage for girls under 15 years of age be banned. 

Lebanese NGO KAFA has long been fighting for change, launching numerous campaigns in an effort to amend Article 9 of the Lebanese Constitution, which gives religious authorities the freedom to impose their own laws on various issues including marriage, divorce, and child custody.