UNFPA and CNDH are teaming up in an effort to abolish underage marriages in Morocco, where the number of girls marrying below the legal age is rising.
Rabat – The National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are making a collaborative effort to end child marriage and promote sexual and reproductive health in Morocco.
The two humanitarian-oriented organizations signed a partnership agreement on April 29 in Rabat signifying their mutual objective of strengthening and promoting best practices regarding the interrelated issues.
The partnership comes after the CNDH’s national awareness campaign, “Marriage of Minor Girls: Abolish the Exception…Restore the Norm,” shared relevant data. The campaign calls on judges, journalists, civil society, professors, and lawyers to actively participate in the cause.
The legal age to marry is 18 in Morocco. According to national law, judges may grant exceptions under special circumstances regulated by article 20 of the Family Code. The authorization should include a substantiated justification for the marriage, legal representation of the minor, and demonstrate that parties sought medical or social advice.
Traditionally in rural Morocco, child marriage has been both a common religious and social practice. Islam permits young marriages but does not permit sex before marriage. By marrying girls at a younger age, parents believe they might protect their daughter from losing her virginity before marriage, employing the concept of “al sutra” to safeguard honor.
Studies show child marriages for Moroccan girls have increased over the years, normalizing what is meant to be the exception.
Action to support reproductive rights in Morocco
The CNDH campaign, leading up to the partnership, is a response to Morocco’s National Action Plan on Democracy and Human Rights, which presses for dialogue around the revision of article 20.
In 2019, the campaign reportedly organized approximately 30 events including screening documentary films, airing radio programs, and collecting testimonies from victims.
UNFPA is the lead UN agency addressing sexual and reproductive health issues. Alongside Morocco’s CNDH, the organization hopes to strengthen its advocacy to fight against the practice of child marriage and implement international conventions regarding child rights.
Beyond supporting women’s and girls’ rights regarding child marriage, the UNFPA is charging forward in its mission to protect women during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. In a recently published article, the UN organization states that women are at a higher risk for falling victim to domestic violence under stay-at-home orders and that “the outbreak of Coronavirus disease does not prevent women from getting pregnant and giving birth.”
UNFPA advises that relevant actors pay particular attention to human and financial resources allocated to protecting women and ensure appropriate sexual and reproductive health measures are in place.
The Moudawana, or family code in Moroccan law, concerns such issues. King Mohammed VI made a number of noteworthy reforms to the code, which originally stems from Islam, in 2004 legislation. These include raising the legal marriage age to 18, limiting terms of divorce and polygamy, granting women additional rights in marriage contracts, and giving men and women joint responsibility for their families.