Marriage or Legal paedophilia : Morocco battles with under age marriages

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More than 33,560 marriages of female Moroccan minors, representing 86.79% of the requests submitted in 2007, were approved by judges, a women’s rights group has disclosed.

The Democratic League of the Women’s Rights (LDDF) said its study found that this situation arose because of powers given to Moroccan courts to grant such requests.

The study was carried out after the recent publication of statistics of the justice ministry, which said the number of requests for marriages of minors increased by 28 per cent between 2006 and 2007 from 30,312 to 38,710. This made up about 10.3 per cent of marriages in the North African country.

Moreover, it said, more than two-thirds (69.5%) of the authorisations were granted to some 17-year-old teenagers, who are one year younger than the lawful age of marriage approved by the Family Code, which came into effect five years ago.

Morocco has a total population of 30 million inhabitants and most of the applications came from rural areas where such marriages rose by 50.5 per cent during the period compared with 9.4 per cent in the urban areas.

“Worse still, on these requests also appeared girls of 14 and 15 years olds. The judges thus approved 159 marriages of 14 year-olds and 1,862 marriages of 15 year-olds,” the LDDF said.

The League expressed regret that certain courts “very easily” granted the authorization of marriages of minors, thus encouraging others to make such applications instead of dissuading the parents not to give off their minor daughters.

The LDDF also noted with concern the age gap between such couples, citing as an example that a young 15 year-old girl withdrawn from school would be married to a 39 year-old man under the single reason “of preserving her honour”.

Under the new family code adopted unanimously by parliamentarians in January 2003, which came into effect one year later the lawful age of marriage in Morocco is 18 years for both boys and girls.

The new code also says the family is the joint responsibility of the couple. The young girl who is over 18 years no longer needs a guardian in order to marry, and children of the girl have the right to inherit their grandfather like those of his son, while repudiation and polygamy is subject to severe conditions and consensual divorce is legal.

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