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“In rural areas, most girls get married only because the father wants her to marry the chosen man. They never ask the girl’s opinion on the marriage,” explains the priest. “The age difference between the husband and wife makes communicating difficult. If they come from different generations, it is even more difficult.

“What happens is the young girls don’t know how to express themselves sexually. Then when they get married, they have a big problem,” continues Father Shehata, who as a marriage counselor focuses first and foremost on opening the channels of communication between husbands and wives.

“And because there are social restrictions, when they come here we cannot always talk freely and openly and say, ‘You don’t give your wife what she wants or you don’t give your husband what he wants.’ But, we try to do all we can to help.”

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Cairo-based journalist Sarah Topol and photographer Holly Pickett cover events in the Middle East.

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Tags: Egypt Cultural Identity Christian-Muslim relations Coptic Orthodox Church Women (rights/issues)