A Moroccan judge in Zagora, southeastern Morocco, has acquitted a man from adultery charges, despite living with his “second wife” without a marriage certificate, Spanish news agency EFE reported on Thursday, February 18.
The defendant was accused by his first wife of gender-based violence and of adultery for living with another woman.
While the judge at the Court of First Instance in Zagora sentenced the man to two months in prison for gender-based violence, he considered the defendant’s “adultery” to not breach any law.
The man admitted that he lives with a different woman than his first wife, but he declared that he and his new partner began living together after they concluded a “Fatiha marriage,” in the presence of several relatives.
Fatiha marriages are a type of marriage agreement that is not documented through any written contract. Its requirements, according to Islamic law, is mutual agreement between the couple and the presence of relatives who serve as witnesses.
While this type of marriage is valid from a religious point of view and is still relatively socially-acceptable in Morocco, especially in rural areas, the Moroccan Family Code urges its documentation through a written certificate, in order to preserve the rights of the couple and their children in case of separation.
Despite the complaint from the defendant’s first wife, the judge considered that “the absence of a marriage certificate is not a reason to view a sexual relationship between a man and a woman as ‘adultery,’” EFE reported, quoting an unpublished court order about the case.
According to Article 491 of Morocco’s Penal Code, adultery is punished by one to two years in prison if the “offended spouse” files a complaint. The recent ruling, however, could create a new judicial precedent if it does not get reversed through appeal.