As a number of Moroccan institutions gear up to review the National Family Code upon King Mohammed VI’s request, activists have been pointing to a number of problematic realities in the current law, in hope each would get the legislators’ attention.
Last revised in 2004, several articles within the Family code have been deemed “in dire need” of change by many Moroccans, who welcomed the King’s initiative.
Article 19 of the code says “Men and women acquire the capacity to marry when they are of sound mind and have completed eighteen years of age.”
However, in Morocco, underage marriage is still very common, which many NGOs are fighting against in hopes that the article will actually be put into action.
Marrying a minor is concluded by a simple request from the court, which doesn’t take over a few hours.
The article that follows, number 20, does state that “The Family Affairs Judge in charge of marriage may authorize the marriage of a girl or boy below the legal age of marriage as stipulated in preceding Article 19, in a well-substantiated decision explaining the interest and reasons justifying the marriage, after having heard the parents of the minor who has not yet reached the age of capacity or his/her legal tutor, with the assistance of medical expertise or after having conducted a social inquiry. 11 The decree granting the petition to marry for a minor who has not reached the age of legal capacity for marriage is not open to appeal.”
Article 21 explains that the marriage of a minor is contingent on the consent of the parents of a legal guardian.
In the chapter on temporary marriage impediments, the “Moudawana” stipulates that the marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man, and the marriage of a Muslim man to a non-Muslim woman unless she is of the Christian or Jewish faith temporarily impedes a marriage.
In the section on the dissolution of bonds of matrimony, starting from article 81, the Moudawana attempts to start a reconciliation attempt between the couple, in an attempt to avoid divorce.
Article 136 said that The legal waiting period (which starts to run from the date of the repudiation, divorce, annulment, or death)for nonpregnant women is either three full cycles for women who still have menstrual cycles, three full months for women who have never had menstrual cycles or for those who have reached menopause, but if she menstruates before the end of the three months, she continues her legal waiting period for three additional cycles, or for women whose menstrual cycles are late or irregular or who cannot distinguish menstrual flow from other secretions, they observe the legal waiting period for three cycles after a waiting period of nine months.
Article 149 stated that adoption has no legal value and does not result in any of the effects of legitimate filiation. “Gratitude adoption” (jaza) or “testamentary adoption” (tanzil) cannot prove paternity and are subject to the terms of the testament.
An article that remains unclear is Article 151, which says that paternity is established by presumption and may only be refuted by judicial decision.
In the section on financial maintenance, Article 188 says that “No person is required to pay maintenance to any other person unless he first has sufficient means to support himself, and self-sufficiency is presumed until proven to the contrary.”
Article 192 of the family code states that “No petition for an increase, or alternatively, a decrease in the agreed-upon or legally fixed maintenance shall be admissible before one year has elapsed, except in exceptional circumstances.”
Several articles have been called out by human rights associations for years, in their constant fight against discrimination, and now that reform plans have been announced, these associations are highlighting the areas where change is needed, expecting great results from decision-makers.