Rabat – According to Mustapha Ramid, the Minister in charge of Human Rights, Morocco is on its way to adopt a “referential” National Action Plan for Democracy and Human Rights (PANDDH), free of any “controversial issues,” namely the death penalty and family law.
The minister is finally taking some time off from his legendary feud with former secretary general of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), Abdelilah Benkirane, to refocus somewhat on human rights issues in Morocco.
During a meeting with the Supervisory Committee in charge of reviewing the PANDDH in Rabat this Wednesday, Ramid said that “everything related to human rights will be included in this plan, including civil, political, economic, social and other rights.”
However, the committee has failed to reach consensus on some “controversial issues,” at least as seen by the Ministry of Human Rights.
According to Ramid, the dispute remained stuck on the death penalty, between those who call for its abolition and those who defended it, as well as other “contentious issues” related to the family law and Morocco’s accession to the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
One of the members of the committee, who chose to remain unnamed, told Morocco World News that in addition to the heated debate on the death penalty, child marriage was at the heart of this dispute.
“Many saw the need to remove judge’s powers in reducing the legal age for marriage, fix a legal age for betrothals, and abolish customary marriage,” the source explained.
Although the Moroccan Family Code sets the legal age of marriage at 18 years old, it still legislates child marriage through articles 20 and 21 by leaving to the discretion of the judge the power to reduce this age in justified cases. The Moudawana, however, sets no age limit to this reduction, nor does it describes the regulations of these exceptions.
Another major legal loophole in the Moudawana is that there is no legal age for betrothal or engagement.
For Ramid, who refused the recommendations filed by the United Nations Human Rights Council during Morocco’s 27th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on child marriage back in May, setting up a legal framework to abolish child marriage “is useless.”
“We need a real social, economic and cultural reform to be able to fight this issue,” the minister told Morocco World News. “Otherwise, people won’t really care about whether there is a legal framework or not.”
Ramid explained that this phenomena is present in many other countries, who like Morocco, set up certain legal criteria to allow minor to marry. “If we don’t open this legislative window to ratify child marriage, we will be forced later on to legislate customary marriage and face its consequence, which most of the time we cannot bare.”
Part of the society still uses customary marriage, practiced under the simple reading of the Fatiha. This marriage is a verbal contract. It must be pronounced in the presence of two witnesses but this ceremony does not require the presence of any Adoul or legal representative, and is particularly practiced in mountainous regions where the rate of illiteracy is very high.
Customary marriages have no legal value. As a result, young women who are victims of such marriages and abandoned by their husbands do not have access to the legislative protection they would enjoy if they had been married legally. For example, filiation is not covered and no support payments are required.
According to MWN’s source, none of these excuses are acceptable: “What Morocco is doing right now is legalizing pedophelia.”
As child marriage number reached 40,000 in 2016, according to a study run by the Moroccan association Voice of Amazigh Women, the member of the committee insisted that “criminalizing this scourge is vital.”
“The government is the one responsible of protecting its citizens, and mainly its children. We have to start somewhere to abolish [child marriage], and the first step is instoring laws,” he concluded.