By Youssef Sourgo
By Youssef Sourgo
Morocco World News
Casablanca, June 23, 2013
Premature marriage, child marriage and early marriage are all terms referring to the same social phenomenon. In many corners of the world, children are immersed into the cosmos of marital life before reaching the legal age, which is universally set at 18 years old. Such practice falls in the arena of human rights violations, and is condemned for stripping children of their basic rights and jeopardizing their psychological and physical safety.
Unsurprisingly, premature marriages mainly characterize phallocentric and traditional societies. Minor girls are thus the most, if not the only, ones affected by such illegal and oppressive practice. Their education is terminated as soon as a man proposes to marry them, and their marriages are arranged without their consent. A minor girl’s father and brother tend to be the major oppressive forces behind her consent in case she shows reluctance.
In Morocco, premature marriage is found in some parts of the Kingdom, especially in rural and remote areas, far from the protective lenses of human rights associations and governmental laws regulating marital life. Child marriage in Morocco is, for the most part, forced or arranged. This is to draw a distinction between the liberal, Western notion of premature marriages, in which both parties seem to decide out of love, and the other notion of premature marriage that is found in patriarchal societies. The consent of the children in forced marriages is not given any importance, and any reluctance from children is countered with coercion and violence.
In most cases, parents support premature marriage as both a financial investment and a social liberation, through which they rid themselves of a smothering responsibility towards their children. In Morocco, child marriage occurs at the expense of children’s most basic rights, namely education, a normal childhood, and, most importantly, the right to aspire and dream.
Studies reveal that the number one motive for urging a child to marry before the legal age is poverty. In Morocco, however, premature marriages also stem from the medieval traditions of regional subcultures. Some villages in Morocco even go to grant premature marriage some sort of a historical and patrimonial legitimacy. Wedding your child to someone in this case is considered a mere cultural practice in conformity with traditional customs and norms.
Though children consent to marry in some of those cases, their consent is not the result of a conscious and well-calculated decision, but rather an innocent reaction to something those children are socialized to consider very natural. Their consent in this case is not to be taken seriously, for the child in question is not fully aware of the aftermath, repercussions and risks of such a decision.
Children in Morocco marry even before puberty, and some girls experience pregnancy at very early ages. As a corollary, their physical health and sexual stability are sometimes severely affected. The striking breach between the ages of those involved in the marriage is beyond ridiculousness. In Morocco, some girls, still at the age of childish discovery, are handed over to adults aged 30 years old and more.
Statistics on premature marriages in Morocco are blurry and are still at the embryonic stage. The remoteness of those areas where such a practice is deemed normal demands rigorous efforts on the side of human rights monitors and governmental representatives. Some villages are almost unreachable. However, a report issued by the ministry of justice on 2010 unveiled an increase in the rate of premature marriages in Morocco (41,000 minor girls).
Even the basic legal procedures underlying normal marriages are neglected in child marriages in Morocco. Premature marriages in some villages in Morocco, where medieval traditions still prevail, are usually not legally documented and are grounded on a basic consent between parents. Thus, in case of divorce, no existing legal authority would compel a man to provide a divorced girl and her children with their basic rights.
In Tamalout, a village located in the province of Midelt, in the Moroccan economic region of Meknès-Tafilalet, child marriage is as customary as giving birth. All girls in the village who were questioned by the staff of the Moroccan TV Show, “Tahkik” (investigation in English), testified having been victims of forced, premature marriage.
“I was 18 when I first married my 13 years old wife,” a young man told Tahkik staff. Asked on the reasons behind marrying a minor girl, he replied, “That’s part of our tradition. You have to marry when you reach a certain age. We marry minor girls because the older ones are all married and divorced.”
According to his response, it is only the man’s age that is taken into account by agents behind premature marriages in those areas. A man has to marry when he reaches the legal age, whereas a girl’s age does not pose any issues for parents. A also has the authority to divorce and remarry whenever he pleases.
However, sometimes, both young men and minor girls seem to be victims of the same thing: medievalist, nonsensical traditions to which conservative parents still unexplainably cling. Though some elderly representatives of Tamalout village claim that they have repudiated such oppressive customs, the testimonies of the villages’ married minor girls and their realities proved the earlier claim false. Scarce are minor girls who escape to such ends in the village.
“Had I not been a student, I would have undoubtedly been compelled to marry,” a minor girl told Tahkik team. “I advise all girls my age not to marry and to pursue their studies regardless of the hindering circumstances,” added the girl..
Despite the existence of governmental laws that forbid child marriage under 18 years old, and despite an unwavering awareness of the existence of the phenomenon in some areas of Morocco, only meager efforts are put into practice to put an end to such anti-human rights practices. Until premature marriage and its repercussions are taken seriously, and until the lives of those minor girls, and their basic rights become of significance to law enforcers, child marriage will still prevail in some parts of Morocco, impeding the full respect and primacy of human rights in the Kingdom.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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