Moroccan courts and notaries continue to approve waivers legalizing child marriage despite the family code’s regulations that adjusted legal minimum age for marriage to 18.
Rabat – Morocco’s Family Code stipulates that the legal minimum age of marriage is 18, except in cases that receive judicial consent. Despite efforts to abolish it, the practice of child marriage has continued, especially in the country’s remote areas.
Morocco’s government has acknowledged the continued presence of the phenomenon despite advocacy against underage marriage.
In January, the Ministry of Justice announced that 32,000 requests for marriage to underage children were issued in 2019.
Moroccan courts approved 25,920 requests, or 81%.
The number represents a slight decrease, but does not represent a significant improve from 2018 data (33,686 child marriage requests).
The ministry’s data shows that 98% of the 2019 requests came from rural areas.
Although Morocco stresses that age 18 as the legal minimum age for marriage, the family of a minor can receive legal permission for child marriage by obtaining a waiver from the judiciary.
A study from the High Commission for Planning, showing statistics between 2007 and 2015, reveals that the number of waiver requests for minors increased to 41,669 in 2015, compared to 38,331 in 2007.
Approximately 99% of the requests were for female minors.
Notaries accepted 85% of the requests, while only 15% were rejected during the same period, the HCP said.
The UN said that everyday, approximately 33,000 girls under age 18 are forced into marriage, “usually to much older men,” across the world.
“Urgent, and accelerated action is needed to end female genital mutilation, child marriage, and other ‘harmful practices’ and abuses carried out against women and girls,” UNFPA said on June 30.
Among the other “harmful practices” that women and girls in Morocco are experiencing is a high adolescent birth rate.
The report shows an adolescent birth ratio of 19 per 1,000 girls aged between 15 and 19, between 2003 and 2018.
The maternal mortality ratio, or deaths per live births, was 70 per 100,000 in 2017.
While child marriage is definitely an issue that needs urgent intervention, the report shows positive data about girls’ enrollment in schools.
The report shows a 97% adjusted enrollment rate for both males and females of primary school age in 2018.
The numbers also show gender equality in terms of secondary school enrollment rates in 2018 (64% of males and 64% of females).
Students dropping out of school is also an issue that continues to affect Moroccans.
Around 431,876 students dropped out of public schools in 2018, without receiving a school certificate, a report from the Higher Council for Education and Scientific Research (CSEFRS) has said.
The number represents 78% of students who received some education at primary and secondary schools.
The dropout rate at the primary school level was 5.6% for girls compared to 4% of boys. The report showed that boys are more likely to drop out of middle and high school in remote areas.
The regions of Marrakech-Safi, Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima, Beni Mellal-Khenifra, Rabat-Sale-Kenitra, as well as eastern Morocco, are hardest-hit in terms of dropouts.
The UNFPA report shows Morocco’s total population at 36.9 million as of 2020.
The average annual rate of population change between 2015-2020 was a 1.3% increase.
People aged between 0-14 represent 26.8 % of the total population, while those aged 10-24 represent 24.3%.
Moroccans aged between 15-64 represented 65.6% of the population in 2018, while those aged 65 and older represent 7.6 % as of 2020.