A 12-year-old boy was married to his bride, 10, in Egypt over the weekend in a ceremony that was allegedly arranged because the groom’s father wanted to raise some money.
Fares al-Saaed, the groom, was wedded to Nancy, in a ceremony in the village of El-Maasara, northeast of Cairo in the Dakahlia governorate, the Egypt Independent reported on Saturday.
A photograph of the event, showing the groom in a suit and tie holding hands with his bride, in a flowing pink dress, was published by Egyptian media
According to the report, the couple has been dubbed “the youngest bride and groom in the world” by locals, although they only signed unofficial papers and the marriage is not recognized by law.
The children were already betrothed to each other but rather than wait until they reached the legal age of marriage, the parents held the ceremony early. The nuptials, which were attended by neighbors and local residents, continued until early in the morning, and featured a band, singers, and three belly dancers.
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The families signed an agreement but did not file an official marriage to avoid the legal restrictions forbidding marriage before the age of 18.
The boy’s father told the Egyptian daily al-Wattan that he wanted to have a celebration for his son and also make a profit from the event. The father claimed such events were a custom in the area and remained unofficial so as to not run afoul of the authorities.
While local residents confirmed the custom, they noted that the couple were the youngest ever in the village to go through with the ceremony.
According to the father, the “husband” and “wife” will not live together but will each remain with their families until they reach a legal age to be married. However, a resident of the village told media that the couple has already been given an apartment to live in.
A neighbor told local media that the father was in need of money and so made a public announcement of the wedding. The neighbor added that although it was known that the two children were betrothed, it was a surprise when a date was set for the ceremony.
A wedding-goer claimed that the groom brought his new bride back to his father’s home at the end of the celebrations.
Egyptian media speculated on the color of the bride’s dress in the photo — pink rather that white — and suggested that it was done to further the impression that the event was an engagement and not a marriage.
Egyptian rights groups and women’s right groups expressed alarm. The Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness condemned the marriage and called for the family members responsible to be brought to trial for “endangering the children’s lives.”