Morocco is seriously considering abolishing underage marriage

The controversy around the marriage of minors in Morocco is renewed each time a demand for human rights arises or a political party proposes a law demanding the prohibition or abolition of this type of marriage from the Code of family (Family Law), which happened recently following the presentation of the National Rally of Independents party, which leads the Moroccan government, proposed a law calling for the complete abolition of underage marriage and fixing the age of marriage at 18 without any exceptions, as is currently the case in the Moudawana.

The new call to abolish the marriage of underage girls is based on article (20) of the Family Code, which states that “the family judge in charge of marriage may authorize the marriage of a boy and a girl who have not reached the legal age, with a reasoned decision specifying the interest and the reasons justifying it after having heard the parents of the minor or his legal representative, sought medical expertise or carried out social research.
Article (21) of the “Family Code” in Morocco states that “the marriage of a minor is subject to the approval of his legal representative, and that the approval of the legal representative is made by signing with the minor the request for authorization to marry and in his presence, the conclusion of the contract”, adding that “if the legal representative of the minor refuses to consent, the family court judge in charge of the marriage has decided on the file.

to change the mentalities

The leader and parliamentarian of the National Rally of Independents, Dr Muhammad Henein, told The Independent Arabic: “The original family code in force since 2004 is that a girl cannot be married until she reaches the age 18 years old, and that her marriage is between 16 and 16 years old. 18 is an exception to its restriction to strict conditions. He added: “Unfortunately, the expansion of the exception has been seen due to the increase in cases of permission to marry girls before they reach the age of majority, as it is confirmed by the Public Prosecutor’s report that the number has increased in 2020 to around 20 thousand marriages.”

Hanin felt that “this rhythm has become very worrying because of its disastrous social consequences, and that it has therefore become necessary for the legislator to intervene to put an end to the aforementioned exception and to fix the age of marriage definitively. at the age of 18, which would limit the marriage of a minor, who should be 16, 17 and even 18 years old is in school or in a vocational training institute, not a housewife.
He continued, “Neither a girl’s feminine maturity, nor her physical structure, nor her mental capacity allow her to have marital relations and take responsibility for marriage. None of us accept the rape of his daughter or sister’s childhood by involving her in a marriage that he knows in advance is doomed.”
In response to the question “Is law reform enough to limit the phenomenon of underage marriage?”, Hanin pointed out that he excludes it, because the legal restriction will prompt to invent alternative means that will lead to the continuation of the phenomenon in different forms. and practices, emphasizing that “sensitization and awareness is a basis for changing mentalities and developing mentalities that are still imprisoned in customs and traditions in a number of regions of the country.

Fight the incubation environment

For his part, the director of the Moroccan Center for Human Rights, Abdelilah El-Khoudari, considered that “the marriage of minors in Morocco is a deep societal crisis in which several influential factors and causes overlap which cannot be ignored. “.
Like Representative Hanin, Al-Khudari found that “sufficiency to prevent the documentation of underage marriage is not a sufficient solution in the short or long term, but rather exacerbates the situation, since families rural and remote countryside marry their daughters, and after a short period of time the marital relationship is consolidated.”
He stressed that “the roots of the dilemma of systematic marginalization experienced by these families, whose victims are mainly young girls married early, must be sought, in order to establish this custom in the marginalized community.”
To deal with this phenomenon, according to the same speaker, “we must take care of this segment of the population and provide the means to revalorize it and offer decent life opportunities to its members, especially girls, by ensuring the conditions for proper growth, education and acquisition of knowledge, which qualifies the rural girl to occupy the position she deserves in society instead of keeping her in the clutches of emptiness, marginalization and loss.

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Al-Khudari pointed out that “difficult circumstances are seen as an incubation environment for the marriage of underage girls in society, but simply preventing the marriage of underage girls will not have a beneficial effect in the fight against the scourge, because it is more useful to eradicate the environment which favors it.

The exception becomes the rule

For her part, the president of the Challenge for Equality and Citizenship association, Bushra Abdo, underlined that “opening the door in the family code to exceptional cases is totally incorrect, because it has become a door to legalize the marriage of underage girls”.
According to Abdo, “the exception provided for in the Family Code when it extends to constitute an overwhelming percentage of more than 80% is not considered an exception”, refusing to accept this type of marriage “under the pretext of poverty or social marginalization, as these are social conditions that bear the responsibility of several parties and institutions.”
Contrary to previous statistics from the public ministry in Morocco, figures from the ministry of justice indicate that the marriage of underage girls has decreased. In 2019, the number of underage marriages reached 20,738 marriage contracts, dropping in 2020 to 12,600 contracts, which constitutes 6.48 percent. of the total number of marriage contracts concluded.
The same source noted that people in villages are more likely to apply for the marriage of minors, with a rate of 67%, or up to 21,000 applications, and that most applicants for this type of marriage in the deserts are the unemployed, with an overwhelming rate of 98 percent.
For its part, the Economic and Social Council (an official advisory body) reported that 85% of child marriage applications were authorized by family court judges between 2011 and 2018.
In a previous report on marriage of minors in Morocco, the same council called for setting the age of marriage at 18 without allocating exceptions, by revising the Family Code, in particular articles (20), (21) and (22), in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution of the year 2011.
Moroccan Minister of Justice Abdellatif Wahbi intends to table amendments to the family code, including amendments to controversial article 20, and then submit them to the royal palace, which will have the final say in approving these amendments, according to this as the same government official said in November (last November in Parliament.

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