Wealthy tourists from the Persian Gulf are paying to marry under-age Egyptian girls just for the summer, according to a report.
These temporary marriages are not legally binding and end when the men return to their homes in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
The tourists pay a ‘dowry’ to poor families through intermediaries with prices ranging from £320 to £3,200.
The young victims – some under 18 – suffer sexual slavery and are forced to be servants to their ‘husbands’, claims the U.S. State Department report ‘Trafficking in Persons’.
No foreigner can marry an Egyptian girl if there is an age difference of 10 years, according to state laws. But parents and marriage brokers are getting round the restriction.
They will forge birth certificates to make the girls appear older and the men younger. In 2009, a court in Alexandria jailed two registrars for conducting temporary marriages of hundreds of girls under 18.
Sex before marriage is banned under Islamic law and most hotels and landlords demand proof before allowing a couple to share the same room.
But the report found that many parents will marry their daughter without her consent and often the girls agree to the arrangement because their families have no money.
Some of the victims are taken back to their husband’s country to work as maids while those left in Egypt are shunned by the conservative society – particularly if they have children during their temporary marriage.
The shame leads many of the girls to dump these youngsters in orphanages or abandon them with thousands of other Egyptian street children.Many of these ‘brides’ are also targeted by Egyptian men and forced into prostitution.
Dr Hoda Badran, who chairs the NGO Alliance for Arab Women, told the Sunday Independent that she believed poverty was the major cause of the trade.
She said:’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.’