Egypt’s president pushes to end child marriage and empower women

Abdel Fattah El Sisi has made empowerment of women a cornerstone of his domestic policies

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi holds a news conference with the Chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan, Saturday, March. 6, 2021.  Egypt's presidency says President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi trip was to address an array of issues, including economic and military ties and the two nations’ dispute with Ethiopia over a massive dam Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile. The visit comes amid a rapprochement between the two governments. (Presidency of Sudan via AP)
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President Abdel Fattah El Sisi urged Egypt's Parliament on Sunday to quickly pass a law against child marriage.

Mr El Sisi also called on the Transport Ministry to guarantee the safety of women on public transport and urged the Central Bank to ban discrimination against those applying for loans or microfinance for small projects.

During a ceremony marking Mother’s Day, he told his government to enable loans to small projects by rural women and to ensure that women are proportionately represented in decision-making positions and on companies’ boards.

The minimum age for marriage in Egypt is 18 for both sexes, but that is widely ignored, especially in rural areas. The country does not have a law specifically criminalising child marriage and images of wedding ceremonies for young children occasionally surface online.

Mr El Sisi’s call for more protection for women on public transport is designed to shield them from sexual and verbal harassment.

Recently, the Cairo Metro introduced security cameras on its trains to curb harassment and crime.

Since he took office in 2014, Mr El Sisi has made empowerment of women a cornerstone of his domestic policies.

He is believed to be behind constitutional amendments adopted two years ago that granted women a 25 per cent quota in Parliament’s two chambers.

This year, Mr El Sisi decreed that women should be allowed to become general prosecutors and judges on the State Council, a judicial body that settles disputes between the government and citizens.

The government has five female Cabinet ministers for health, immigration, planning, commerce and social solidarity.

Mr El Sisi has repeatedly credited women for steering families through the economic hardships created by his far-reaching reform programme, under which prices soared as state subsidies worth billions of dollars were removed, from 2016.

“You are the hero behind the success of state policies and plans, and without you we could not have reached where we are now,” he said on Sunday.

His government’s economic reform programme has been praised by international financial institutions.

“You were always the elixir of life every time the nation went through a difficult time,” Mr El Sisi said.