Child marriage remains a pressing concern creating substantial hurdles for vulnerable girls. This contentious issue took centre stage during the national seminar surrounding family law reform organised Tuesday by The International Center for Diplomacy, Israr Coalition for Empowerment and Equality, Coalition We-Men Engaged for Change and UNFPA.
“Despite significant legal progress in the past 20 years, the marriage of young girls persists, with 12% of them being married before the age of 18,” said Abdel-Ilah Yaakoubd, Assistant Resident Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Morocco.
Yaakoubd added that child marriage often leads to early pregnancies, with approximately 20 births recorded per 1000 girls aged 15 to 19. Shockingly, 19% of girls are married before theyr reach the age of 18.
“This practice is prevalent in impoverished regions, where it severely impacts the mental and physical health of these girls,” Yaakoubd added.
“Several reports have revealed that child marriage has become common due to the high acceptance rate of applications submitted to the courts.”
One significant concern discussed during the seminar was the impact of Article 20 of the Moroccan Family Code, which permits the marriage of minors under certain circumstances.
Advocates expressed concerns about the article 20’s potential misuse and exploitation of young girls, particularly in rural areas where traditional gender roles and cultural norms persist.
Anas Saadoune, a judge, said that “despite the marriage certificate being the accepted way to prove marriage, the option of proving marriage through a court ruling remains. This has led to the emergence of various unconventional marriage forms, including “contra” marriages and marriages of girls in exchange for mortgages, checks, or symbolic religious recognition.”
In 2022 alone, nearly 2007 requests were made to permit the marriage of underage girls, and 13652 of them were accepted, according to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
In the past two years, more than 36383 underage girls dropped out of school due to marriage requests.
Saadoune called for the prohibition of child marriage by removing articles 20, 21, and 22 from the Family Code and criminalizing the illegal marriage of children as a form of forced marriage.
Saadoune also urged the elimination of the requirement for a complaint to initiate legal action in cases of forced marriage.
The seminar witnessed the launch of the first national alliance for the rights of young girls which is expected to pave the way for a more equitable society where young girls are informed, protected, and given the tools to thrive in various aspects of life.