An engagement of a 12-year-old boy to his 11-year-old cousin has sparked outrage and anger from child and women’s rights activists after the pictures of the engagement went viral on social media.
The young child’s father, Nasser Hassan, announced the engagement during his eldest son’s lavish wedding in Cairo, Egypt.
But he received backlash for the announcement and during an interview with Al Watan newspaper he said there was ‘nothing inappropriate’ about the couple.
Egyptian law prohibits marriages for anyone under the age of 18. But according to UNICEF 17 percent of Egyptian girls are married before the age of 18.
Photos of the young couple, 12-year-old Omar dressed in a blue suit, and 11-year-old Gharam heavily made-up in a white dress also sparked anger and outrage in many areas of Egypt itself after they were splashed across newspapers in the country.
Reda Eldanbouki, the head of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, filed a complaint with the attorney general to investigate the incident and hold the parents accountable for what he called a ‘crime’.
He added: ‘will only lead to an early marriage in which the girl will be deprived of equal chances to education, growth, and will isolate her from social spheres.’
However, Omar’s father denied any wrongdoing, saying he ‘is a free man and did nothing wrong’.
He added: ‘Omar has always loved Gharam so much that he used to say he will marry her when they grow up before any other man asks for her hand in marriage when she is older,’ he added.
‘They will get married when they reach the legal age.’
He said both children acted ‘beyond their years’ and had ‘strong feelings for each other’ through Facebook and other social media and ‘wanted to get engaged’.
He also went on to say he decided to announce their engagement now “before any other man asks for her hand in marriage when she is older”.