Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)
In Morocco today the risk of girls marrying before 18 is less than half of what it was three decades ago.
However despite positive changes in Morocco’s legal system to protect women and girls’ rights, rates of child marriage remain high, with an estimated 16% of girls married off before the age of 18.
Figures released by the Ministry of Justice in 2012 show that 41,098 underage marriages took place in 2010, an increase of 23% since 2007. However, data collection remains inconsistent as many underage marriages are not registered.
Patriarchal values remain strong in Moroccan society. Women and girls are usually expected to conform to the traditional roles of wives and mothers and have little agency to choose an alternative path.
Child marriage may be seen as a form of protection from economic insecurity in a country where poverty levels are still high, especially in rural areas.
Families may also exert pressure for their daughters to marry young as a way of protecting them from unwanted male attention, early sexual initiation and to avoid the stigma of pregnancy outside of marriage.
Poor educational and economic opportunities for girls are also drivers of child marriage in Morocco.
Legal age of marriage
In 2004, the Family Code (or Moudawana) raised the legal age of marriage to 18 for both women and men. Previously, girls as young as 15 were allowed to marry.
However, there is a loophole in the Family Code which allows judges to authorise marriages below 18 in certain circumstances.
In March 2012, the suicide of Amina Filali, a 16-year-old girl, drew national attention. Amina had been forced to marry the man who had raped her.
The case brought into question article 475 of the Penal Code, which allowed rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victims even if they were under the legal age of marriage of 18.
In January 2014 the Moroccan Parliament unanimously amended the controversial article.
Members In Morocco
- UNICEF, Ending child marriage: Progress and prospects, 2014
- UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016