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Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18

* References

* 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)

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18

* References

* 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)

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

The most recent available data from 2004 shows that 16% of girls in Morocco are married before their 18th birthday and 3% are married before the age of 15.

Statistical information is inconsistent as many child marriages are not officially registered.

According to UNICEF, the risk of girls marrying before the age of 18 in Morocco is less than half of what it was three decades ago.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys. In Morocco, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Violence against girls: In 2012, 16 year old Amina Filali committed suicide after being forced to marry the man who had raped her. Controversial Article 475 of Morocco’s Penal Code had allowed rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victims, even if they were under the legal age of marriage of 18. A 2011 study conducted by the Moroccan High Commission for Planning shows that younger women who marry without consent are almost three times more likely to experience partner violence.
  • Gender norms: Women and girls are often expected to conform to strict, traditional roles as wives and mothers and have little decision-making power. Reports have highlighted that the Arab Spring reinforced conservative beliefs on gender roles.
  • Poverty: Child marriage offers a degree of financial security and reduces the perceived burden of girls on their families. Some Family Court judges reportedly authorise child marriages for economic reasons in poorer regions.
  • Pre-marital sex: Some families marry off their daughters if they suspect they are in a sexual relationship outside of marriage, which is still perceived a crime under Article 490 of Morocco’s Criminal Code.
  • Parental control: A 2013 study shows that parents, and in some cases aunts and uncles, play a significant role in deciding to marry girls off, often for reasons associated with preserving honour and worrying that their daughter’s might be rejected if they are not married by a certain age.
  • Religion: In a 2017 study, participants highlighted that misinterpretation of religious principles enables child marriage in Morocco. Some people believe that Islam condones the marriage of girls as soon as they begin menstruation.
  • Societal pressure: Some families reportedly feel pressured to marry off their daughters at a young age in order to avoid social sanctions from the community, including gossip, shame and stigma.

What has this country committed to?

Morocco has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The government did not provide an update on progress towards this target during its Voluntary National Review at the 2016 High Level Political Forum.

Morocco co-sponsored the 2013, 2014 and 2016 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, and the 2013 Human Rights Council resolution on child, early and forced marriage. In 2014, Morocco signed a joint statement at the Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Morocco ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

Morocco has not signed or ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, including Article 6 which sets the minimum age for marriage as 18, or the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.

During its 2017 Universal Periodic Review, Morocco agreed to examine recommendations to revise the Family Code to prohibit child marriage.

During its 2014 review, the UN Child Rights Committee expressed regret that no specific measures had been taken to remove girls from forced marriages and that thousands of girls as young as 13 are married every year as a result of extensive derogations from the law by family judges.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

In 2015 Morocco adopted the Integrated Public Policy for Child Protection with technical support from UNICEF. It outlines plans to build an integrated child protection system that takes into consideration the institutional, social, economic and cultural development of the country and to ensure an effective protective environment in accordance with national and international standards.

During the same year, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane caused controversy by stating that there are no marriages of minors in Morocco and when child marriages do occur it is due to the choice of girls.

The La Rabita Mohammedia des Oulémas programme has engaged religious leaders and communities on gender-based violence, including child marriage. The programme has produced audio-visual aids to sensitise children to the impact of child marriage and includes a training mechanism to empower young men to teach children about human rights.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Family Code 2004 the minimum legal age of marriage is 18 years. However legal loopholes mean that girls may marry before 18 years with judicial consent.

In 2018 a new law on combatting violence against women was introduced, which marked a positive step forward in terms of defining and criminalising acts considered harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation and forced marriage of girls and women. However the law itself does not address child marriage or related issues of intimate partner violence that many child brides experience.


BBC, Morocco protest after raped Amina Filali kills herself, [website], 2012, (accessed May 2018)

BMC International Health and Human Rights, Determinants of child and forced marriage in Morocco: stakeholder perspectives on health, policies and human rights, 2013, (accessed May 2018)

Government of Morocco, Integrated public policy for child protection in Morocco, [website], 2018, (accessed June 2018)

Haut-Commissariat au Plan, Enquête Nationale sur la Prévalence de la violence à l‘Egard des Femmes, 2011, (accessed May 2018)

Huff Post, Benkirane: There is no marriage of minors in Morocco, 2015, (accessed June 2018)

Ministère de la Santé, ORC Macro, et Ligue des États Arabes, Enquête sur la Population et la Santé Familiale (EPSF) 2003-2004, 2005, (accessed May 2018)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3, [website], 2014, (accessed April 2018)

Morocco World News, Child Marriage in Morocco’s Rural Areas, 2015, (accessed June 2018)

UNICEF, Ending Child Marriage: Progress and Prospects, 2014, (accessed May 2018)

UNICEF and the International Center for Research on Women, Child Marriage in the Middle East and North Africa – Morocco Country Brief, 2017, (accessed June 2018)

UN Child Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Morocco, 2014, p.10, (accessed May 2018)

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Morocco, 2017, p.21, (accessed May 2018)

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, (accessed February 2018)

* 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)