Many children in Egypt suffer various forms of violence, exploitation, human trafficking and inadequate family care. There is a widespread use of violence as a socially acceptable disciplinary practice.
The 2014 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) shows that 93 percent of children aged 1 to 14 years old have been exposed to violent disciplinary practices, including psychological aggression and/or physical punishment.
Girls are particularly vulnerable to various forms of abuse such as Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage. The prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation/cutting (FGM) among girls aged 15-17 has steadily decreased in the past decade. However, regional disparities exist. For example, the percentage of 0 to 17 years old girls, who are expected to undergo FGM reaches 90 percent in some Upper Egypt governorates. Regarding child marriage, the 2014 DHS shows that child marriage affects 6.4 percent of the girls aged 15-17.
FGM/C is very widespread in Egypt, and is a deeply entrenched social norm. Communities practice FGM/C in the belief that it will ensure a girl's proper upbringing, ensure daughters marriageability and preserve family honor. These are deep-rooted traditions which underlines gender inequality and which represents an extreme form of gender discrimination.
Child labor constitutes also a major threat to the young generation. The 2014 EDHS found that 7 percent of children aged 5-17 years old, around 1.6 million children, are involved in child labor and 5.6 percent of these children work under hazardous conditions.
The criminal justice system focuses on a penal rather than a rehabilitating approach, when dealing with children in conflict with the law. There is overreliance on detention and it is an established practice to incarcerate children in pre-trial detention for a prolonged period and to sentence first time child offenders, accused of minor crimes, with a penalty in the form of deprivation of liberty. In many cases, these children are detained with adults and face many abuses during all stages of the justice system. Violence, arbitrary detention and overreliance on detention during all stages of the criminal procedure are a major challenge to children’s access to justice.
Egypt also host a significant amount of refugee children, including a high number of unaccompanied and separated children (UASC). Egypt’s refugee children come predominantly from Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Yemen. According to UNHCR assessments, 46,800 refugee children in Egypt are considered as severely vulnerable (i.e. under the poverty line) and a further 4,960 are considered at risk - a category that includes out-of-school children, child labourers, child spouses and children with special needs. By the end of 2017, there were 219,212 registered refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt, of which more than 86,000 are children, including more than 4,000 UASC.
The situation of children in Egypt is aggravated by lack of preventive and responsive child protection services and an inadequate juvenile justice system. Key legislation achievements such as the amendment to the penal code criminalizing FGM and the Child Law have not been accompanied by necessary measures and resources. Lack of a trained cadre of social workers, accountable for dealing with child protection cases is a huge gap that needs to be addressed urgently.