The attempted forced marriage of a Spanish minor highlights the damaging effects of the practice.
By Carolina McCabe
Rabat – In Alicante, Spain, the Guardia Civil prevented the forced marriage of a 17-year-old girl to a 37-year-old man from Morocco.
The Guardia Civil detained the girl’s father and brother, who worked together to orchestrate the forced marriage. According to the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, a source alerted authorities about the situation soon before the minor was sent to Morocco. While the minor was born and raised in Spain, her family is Moroccan.
When authorities met with the minor, they learned the girl’s family had prohibited her from leaving the home freely or attending school. She also revealed to the police that her family abused and mistreated her throughout her adolescence.
In March, after her family had announced that she would be married to a man from a small town in Morocco, the teen attempted to commit suicide. After the suicide attempt, the family brought her to meet her future husband in Morocco and then returned to Spain, according to El Pais.
Spanish authorities arrested the minor’s 29-year-old brother on charges of domestic abuse and coercion. The minor has been provided protection at a youth shelter in Spain and hopes to continue her studies.
In August of 2018, a similar case unfolded when a 16-year-old from Malaga, Spain, reported to police that she was being forced into a marriage with a 28-year-old Moroccan man whom she had never met. The mother was detained and the minor transitioned to a youth shelter.
The international campaign “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” is commemorated annually beginning on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25 until Human Rights Day on December 10. Around Morocco, women are sharing their stories and engaging in discussions to bring awareness to the gender-based discrimination and abuse they face.
According to UNICEF, 15 million girls worldwide are forced into child marriages every year. Around the world, one in five girls are married before the age of 18, while in Africa, the rate is one in three. The practice of child marriage is rooted in economic motives, cultural beliefs and inequality between sexes.
In Morocco, around 16 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, estimates UNICEF. According to the advocacy group Girls Not Brides, child marriage is often seen in Morocco as a form of economic security, especially in rural areas. A lack of educational resources and economic opportunities for young girls is one source of the problem.
Morocco implemented Law 103-13 in September of 2018, criminalizing violence against women and restricting forced marriage. However, the law was criticized for its inability to clearly define forced marriage and for creating loopholes that would allow for child marriage.