A draft law aimed at lowering the minimum legal marital age for females in Egypt from 18 years old to 16, has sparked outrage on social media over the weekend.
According to Al Ahram, the draft law was proposed by Egyptian Ahmed Samih, an independent MP representing the Giza district of Al-Talbiya.
Samih said that "lowering the [marital age] would legalize the status of girls who get married at this age."
"Statistics show that 80 percent of girls aged 16 in rural and densely populated urban districts marry with parental consent, even though they are aware that this marriage is illegal," he explained, adding that his proposed law aims to solve problems that those girls often face.
The MP also added that his proposed law aims to lower the minimum age for marriage so as to "bring it in line with Islamic Sharia."
In his proposal, Samih explained that he isn't trying to force girls to marry at 16 or any other age, but simply wants to ensure that every female can choose to marry at the age she likes, even if she's a child.
The MP's legislative proposal faced the backlash of fellow MPs who labeled it 'regressive.'
"The 45-member parliamentary bloc titled Egypt's Bloc of Female MPs described Samih's draft law as 'a disaster,'" Al Ahram wrote.
In their statement on the matter, the bloc explained that if passed, Samih's legislative proposal would legally contribute "to worsening the heavy physiological and psychological problems faced by girls who marry at 16."
Margret Azer, a female MP who's also a member of the bloc, said that while she does acknowledge that many girls who live in the country's poorer districts marry at ages well below 16, the government's job is to "stand against this trend" rather than to legalize it.
Azer explained that Article 80 of Egypt's 2014 Constitution stipulates that "those who are under the age of 18 are to be considered children."
She also argued that "marriage at 18 does not violate Islamic Sharia, which states that girls reach the age of marriage when they become wise enough."
Egyptians respond on social media
As soon as news of Samih's proposal began to make the rounds online, thousands of angry Egyptians took a stand against it via the hashtag: 'No to lowering the legal marital age.'
People hit back at Samih's proposal
"To the person who proposed this law: You're not only ruining the life of a child who deserves a chance at life, education and hope, you're also ruining and destroying an entire society."
"Enough of this regression"
"The person who's calling for the implementation of this law must be jailed"
Others expressed their shock and anger
"You know what? This isn't even your fault, it's the fault of the people who gave you a position you don't deserve."