But always allow for exceptions

Morocco is considered fairly liberal compared to most of its neighbors, but what liberality there is may be more formal than real.

There’s that 2004 revision of the family code that raised the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18. The trouble is it allowed for “exceptions” where a judge could rule that young Miss 15 was actually old enough – and guess what. Lots of judges are ruling just that.

A 2014 World Bank report entitled “Ten Years After Morocco’s Family Code Reforms: Are Gender Gaps Closing?” indicates that of the 44,134 underage marriage petitions in 2010, 99 percent involved underage girls and 92 percent of said requests received judicial approval.

As the World Bank report succinctly states: “If the aim of this reform was to decrease the number of underage marriages, it is failing.”

Bouzekri, who is also a Gender Studies professor at Moulay Ismail University in Meknes, cites the loophole allowing underage and forced marriages as a recurring example of the inadequacy of Moroccan authorities and lawmakers to implement the new moudawana.

“Today we routinely find that judges marry girls that are either 15 and 16, especially in the rural areas. The judge will accept that she looks like a woman, that she is capable of being a woman but (she’s only) 15 or 16. There should not be a distinction: Marriage should happen at the age of 18. That’s it. No exceptions,” says Bouzekri.

And then there’s the whole “marry your rapist” problem.

In 2012, 16-year-old Amina Filali, consumed rat poison after being “…forced by her parents and a judge to marry the man she said had raped her at knife point…” according to The New York Times. Filali’s tragic death inspired protests across the country and global ire from feminist and human rights organizations. In January 2014, the Moroccan Parliament voted to expunge the clause of Article 475 of its penal code that allowed a man accused of rape to avoid jail time if he married his adolescent victim, the clause that failed to protect girls like Filai.

Again, good, but again, it’s only on paper.

A 2013 BMC International Health and Human Rights report entitled “Determinants of child and forced marriages in Morocco” interviewed 22 “stakeholders” in Moroccan gender reform such as government officials, NGO works and health care professional. The report indicates that judges rule in an attempt to shield underage or sexually abused girls from the shame of divorce or familial abandonment.

“In these rural areas, the look of the neighbor is very important. The father, the mother, they will say, ‘I know my daughter was raped but I want him to marry her’. The judges hear that, especially in rural areas,” said Bouzekri.

Because of the neighbors.


  1. says

    Your neighbors are idiots if they just want you to marry any old person who comes along, just so you appear to be married at a certain age, never mind the guy that raped you. What kind of neighbor will that dood make? What kind of family is that?

    For pete’s sake, let the victim at least arrange a marriage to someone of her own choosing, if the neighbors will frown upon a pregnant woman (or girl) with no “husband”. (I rather take it abortion is never an option here, and that pregnancy isn’t necessarily required – just that the woman was violated by some guy.)

  2. karmacat says

    People worry about what the neighbors will think yet some of those neighbors may be going through something similar. So everybody hides in their isolation and nothing can get fixed. So the more people talk, the more they will realize they are not alone. I wonder what exactly has led many societies to shame the victim but not the rapist. I can think of many reasons but I don’t think it is the whole story

  3. Gordon Willis says

    I shall call it the Penile Imperative. The Penile Imperative dictates that if she looks sexy to an imperative penis, she’s old enough to have sex with it, and the law, which is the Law of the Penile Imperative, should state categorically that this is true. If she’s three, or six, or nine, or twelve, or fifteen, no matter if she arouses the Penile Imperative. The Penile Imperative is a manly demand and should be honoured because men do everything, as we know, while women just sit about and talk about babies and other trash. Women are stupid and ought to be enslaved, because they have no Penile Imperative to direct their minds. Admittedly, women can distract the Penile Imperative for their own ends, but Allah will see to it that they are punished, like all the rest of their kind, for disturbing the true operation of the Penile Imperative which is the will of God and exactly what I most truly desire.

    ‘I know my daughter was raped but I want him to marry her’.

    Really, honestly? You want your own daughter to marry a rapist? Isn’t it because she has been damaged as saleable goods and the damager should pay? Just imagine: “yes, you can marry my daughter, but you ought to know that she has been raped” — no, not possible, just too embarrassing — sorry, shameful. So let the rapist take her away, no questions asked. After all, isn’t having a daughter a crime against society?

    One could say that the penalty for rape is lifelong marriage with your victim, but as this is hardly onerous, and as Islamic marriage doesn’t prevent men from pleasing themselves, it’s not likely to be much of a deterrent, is it?

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