Wealthy Arab tourists from Gulf countries are paying money to purchase under-age Egyptian girls as “summer-brides”, claims a new report on human trafficking released by the U.S. State Department.
The marriages are not legally binding and end when the men return to their home countries.
According to the report “Trafficking in Persons”, often times these temporary marriages are facilitated by the girls’ parents who profit from the transaction.
According to Britain’s The Daily Mail, the wealthy tourists pay an amount to poor families through intermediaries, ranging from anywhere between $495 and $4,950.The young victims, some under the age of 18, are then forced to serve as sex slaves as well as servants to their “husbands.”
Egypt has laws in place that aim to combat human trafficking which prevent foreigners from marrying an Egyptian woman if there is more than ten years age difference, but marriage brokers have found a way around that by forging birth certificates to make the girls appear older and the men younger.
These contracts also eliminate any potential problems with hotels and land lords who may demand to see proof of marriage before allowing a couple to stay in a room together, since pre-marital sex is prohibited in Islam.
In many cases, the family agrees to marry their daughter without her consent, but often the girls are willing participants as they see it as the only way to help provide for their families.
In some cases the men take the Egyptian girls back to their home country to work as maids for their first wives. But even the girls who stay in Egypt do not fare much better since they often become ostracized by society and find it difficult to re-marry in the traditional way, particularly if the “summer marriage” resulted in a child.
Many of the young women end up in a cycle of temporary marriages with Gulf tourists, and others are targeted by Egyptian men who marry them in order to force them into prostitution.
Many abandon the child out of shame, either to orphanages or leaving them to join the hundreds of thousands of street children that already exist in Egypt.
Dr. Hoda Badran, who chairs the NGO Alliance for Arab Women, explained to the Sunday Independent that poverty is the main factor behind this phenomenon.
“If those families are in such a need to sell their daughters you can imagine how poor they are. Many times, the girl does not know she is marrying the husband just for the short term. She is young, she accepts what her family tells her, she knows the man is going to help them. If the girl is very poor, sometimes it is the only way out to help the family survive,” she told the newspaper.
The report by the State department said Egypt is making significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking, but due to the political unrest in the country over the past year, the government is unable to provide law enforcement and prosecution data on those efforts.
Furthermore, it said Egypt is continuing to develop strategies to implement a comprehensive action plan to address all aspects on trafficking.
In 2009, a court in Egypt’s second largest city Alexandria jailed two registrars for conducting temporary marriages of hundreds of underage girls, however NGOs say that this is only the tip of the iceberg, and that more needs to be done to implement existing laws.