"Laws are not enough to stem the phenomenon of underage marriage in Morocco"

The marriage of minors is a complex phenomenon that laws alone are not enough to limit, confided the president of the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH), Amina Bouayach, during a meeting during which the Council presented a study on approved legal justifications for underage marriage, which he conducted in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund in Morocco (UNFPA).

In her statement during this meeting, the president of the CNDH, Amina Bouayach, indicated that the marriage of minors is a complex phenomenon, and that the insufficiency of laws to stem it calls into question the national strategy for the protection of ‘childhood.

The study, which was carried out by the CNDH, comes at a time when human rights associations are increasingly calling for the abolition of article (16) sixteen of the Family Code, which gives discretionary power to marry minors (which generally rests with the family judge), by judicial decision which determines the best interests of the child, pending the definitive abolition of the marriage of minors.

In her speech, Amina Bouayach underlined the urgent need to develop a unified conception of the best interests of the child, so that their representation is uniform among all judges, considering that the best interests will not be achieved until that children will not be involved in the issue.

Demands made by human rights associations to abolish the marriage of minors have been on a large scale in recent times, particularly after King Mohammed VI’s call in his recent Speech from the Throne to review the Code of family in light of changes to the 2011 Constitution, as well as Morocco’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Thus, the president of the CNDH stressed that the lack of uniformity in the representation of judges and the rest of the stakeholders involved in the marriage of minors with regard to the notion of the best interests of the child, and the lack of tools practices for its implementation, makes it an ambiguous concept, noting that the Council will focus on establishing a unified standard for the best interests of the child, to frame judicial decisions, and policies statements regarding the rights of the child.

In partnership with UNFPA, the CNDH will analyze the problems contained in the completed study on the legal justifications adopted for the marriage of minors, in the light of the transformations that Moroccan society is experiencing at all levels, in order to arrive at a precise conception of the best interests of the child.

For his part, Louis Muga, representative of the United Nations Population Fund in Morocco, said: “ Underage marriage is not only gender-based violence, but also a major public health problem “, adding that” this type of marriage not only violates the rights of married girls, but also the rights of their children.”

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