By Neaman Lerhmari
Rabat – A court in the northwestern Moroccan town of Souk Larbaa has ruled in favor of single mother, granting her the ownership of the family record book, a right exclusively reserved to “Moroccan husbands officially registered in the civil registry,” according to the law.
When the mother first requested to have the record book, the administrative authorities refused.
For the mother, owning the legal document is crucial to establish her daughter’s identity and eventually reunify the family in Spain, where the mother lives. Faced with such refusal, the woman could have been separated from her child.
But in refusing her request, the authorities did not go against the law. It states in its civil registry regulation that only married Moroccan men have the right to the original family booklet, while their wives and their legal guardians only have the right to certified copies.
After she filed an official correspondence to the tribunal of first instance in Souk Larbaa, the presiding judge ordered the local authorities, namely the civil registry officers, to give the single mother the family record book.
The presiding judge’s order was based on article 54 of the family code that stipulates “the State must take all necessary measures to protect children, [and] defend and preserve their rights, in accordance with the law.”
What caused the judge to rule in favor of the mother? For him, the union of the mother and her child, and thus the latter’s safety, were in stake. He interpreted the family code law in favor of the single mother, who is,according to the article 231 of the family code, the legal representation of the child.
A New Precedent?
According to news site Media24, the decision is not a novelty, and might “enable single mothers to access their family record books without going through court rooms.”
In Morocco, sex outside marriage is forbidden and punishable by a prison sentence. As a result, single mothers are largely stigmatized and marginalized by society, and often abandoned by their relatives. They risk prison sentences if they try to establish paternity rights.
The family code only protects children of legitimate marriage, leaving thousands of illegitimate ones to struggle with a legal deadlock, despite children rights’ official protection by the Constitution and various international charters the country has agreed on.
For example, in October 2017, the Tangier Court of Appeal annulled a decision in favor of a single mother and her child. The appealed decision had ordered a rapist to pay a total of MAD 100,000 in compensation to his victim, the single mother, despite backing her claims with DNA expertise.
In a note published Monday in Legal Agenda, the magistrate Anass Sadoun expressed his hope for the Souk Larbaa jurisprudence to breach the longstanding, literal interpretation of the law, which he said gets in the way of gender equality in guardianship rights.
The family code, according to the magistrate, grants women the right to own the family record book — including those who conceive outside of wedlock.
Sadoun said it is hoped that this jurisprudence will end the suffering of thousands of single mothers whom rights to family record books are denied, because of the attachment to literal implementation of the law.