Despite the new reforms in the Family Code, child marriages are increasing in Morocco. The minimum marriage age rose from 14 to 18 and marriage to a minor requires a judge’s permission. However, the number of under-age girls who were married in 2011 reached 42,000. Statistics regarding this practice in Morocco show that 12% of marriages involved girls who are minors.
In an attempt to draw the government’s attention to the pain of child brides, hundreds of women took to the street in Rabat protesting for their dignity. Some activists visited many married teenage girls from different cities in the country and talked to some of them.
Siham, now 22, was a victim of early marriage when she was 16. She told her story to Najia Adib,head of “Don’t Touch My Child” association. She revealed that she was forced to accept her marriage and that she was badly treated by her husband and her mother-in-law. “Unfortunately, Siham’s husband who is supposed to offer security, protection and care at home has turned into a monster,” Najia explained. Siham was forced to go to the court and demand her freedom.
At the age of 24, Hanane, another victim of early marriage, is already divorced and a mother of three children. “My childhood and life were destroyed at the age of 15 when I married a 38-year-old man. In my community, staying at home unmarried is associated with shame,” she said. “I was humiliated in all sorts of ways. I was too young to understand my role as a wife or mother. After six years of suffering, I lost hope and I demanded divorce,” Hanane told Najia.
There is still a common tradition among many families in remote areas to force their daughters to marry at a very early age. “Poverty and illiteracy are also important factors,” said a sociologist. “Many parents in rural areas prefer to marry off their daughters at an early age because it means one less mouth to feed,” he explained.
It is urgent to end early age marriage in Morocco particularly that the consequences, such as mother mortality, divorce and domestic violence, are very serious. Ending child marriage is everybody’s responsibility. Access to education must be guaranteed, and poverty must be reduced. When parents are educated and have enough money, they are less likely to give their young daughters for marriage.