In a strange development, the Egyptian Bank for Development and Agricultural Credit is to grant loans to low-income farmers in an effort to give them funds necessary to marry a second wife. The goal, the bank said, was to assist in helping unmarried women tie the knot, but it has brought on scorn from women’s rights activists in the country who say the move is counter to Egyptian values.
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“This is not Saudi Arabia and we are not a country where we support polygamy,” university student Heba Aly told Bikyanews.com after hearing the news. For her, the idea is “a horrific show that Gulf efforts are coming to Egypt more and more.”
She blamed the idea on the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists – ultra-conservative Puritans – who have given the Gulf more power in everyday Egyptian affairs.
“I find this disgusting. Egypt is not a place where we have a lot of men marrying more than one woman and for a bank to actively promote polygamy makes me sick and I really want to leave this country if it continues,” she added.
The Bank’s chairman, Mohsen Batran, said at a press conference held with the Minister of Agriculture last Tuesday that the bank will be granting loans to young farmers, to help them with the cost of marriage, according to government-run al-Ahram newspaper.
His initiative includes encouraging polygamy, provided that they will just wed two wives. The bank’s chairman said that the loan’s interest on the first marriage is three percent while for the second marriage is six percent.
Men seeking a third wife will have to pay a loan’s interest of more than 15 percent.
According to Al-Ahram, there are 9 million unmarried women in Egypt and as women get older they face a cultural backlash as a result.
Batran, meanwhile, criticized those who are skeptical about the bank’s support to the farmers, adding that the bank had helped 37,000 farmers with their debts.