May 05 2009
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Child marriage in Morocco criticised
Moroccan associations and human rights organisations want the practice of child marriage to stop. Campaigners from various associations recently criticised the way the Moudawana (Family Code), which was intended to limit child marriages, has been applied.
The legal minimum age for marriage in Morocco is 18 years, although family judges are empowered to allow exceptions. This loophole has enabled thousands of families to marry off their daughters prematurely.
According to figures from the justice ministry, over 31,000 under-age girls were married in 2008, compared with 29,847 in 2007.
"Five years after the new family code was passed, Moroccans have certainly grasped the great importance of women's rights, but we're still lagging behind society's expectations," she said.
The Moroccan Women's Democratic Association's legal chair Saïda Amrani Idrissi said that the law gives judges tremendous room for manoeuvre.
The justice minister says that judges are not automatically granting permission for child marriages, citing the 7% of requests that are rejected.
"The fact that some requests are rejected proves that approval is not a foregone conclusion. Requests are granted according to the particular social situation of the girls concerned," stated Justice Minister Abdelwahed Radi.
Jamal Badaoui, a sociologist, explained to Magharebia that it is proving difficult to change Moroccan attitudes overnight, particularly in rural areas. "Mindsets are much harder to change than laws. Parents living in the midst of poverty and illiteracy continue to believe that girls must be married off as soon as possible. They can't imagine a future outside marriage."
He added that things would not change unless there are targeted public awareness campaigns to explain the harm caused by early marriage and to stress the importance of learning in girls' lives, both in urban and country areas. "An improvement in families' economic circumstances will also help to limit the phenomenon. In fact, there is a series of causes on which the authorities and civil society must take action to change the situation."
By Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat
© Magharebia.com 2009
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