Underage marriage in Morocco: abolish the exception, restore the norm

Rabat 22 march 2019
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Underage marriage in Morocco: abolish the exception, restore the norm

In Morocco, marriage contracts involving minors still amounted to several tens of thousands of individuals in 2018, a clear majority of them being female. The Family Code, reviewed in 2004, determined the legal capacity to marry at 18 years old for both male and female, however some of its provisions allow to override this rule following the authorisation by a judge.

The examination of this legal exception was at the heart of this meeting organised on 22 March 2019 by the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), in partnership with the Council of Europe in the framework of the South Programme III, after a national campaign launched in January 2019 by the CNDH with the support of its regional commissions.

Underage marriage is directly linked to the safeguard of human rights, namely to the rights to physical integrity, to physical and mental health, to education, to privacy, to freedom and to autonomy of these women and girls. The international instruments for the protection of human rights prescribe that a marriage cannot be concluded without the free and full consent of the future spouses. To what extent can a minor genuinely consent to marriage? To what extent is this minor constrained by her family environment, by her social and economical living conditions? Was the consent of the minor obtained using physical and/or psychological threats?

This meeting, which was attended by the Minister of Justice, the President of the CNDH, the Interministerial Human Rights Delegate, as well as many national and international representatives, tried to provide answers to these questions. The Council of Europe reiterated its position on this issues, based on the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention), article 37 of which makes it an offence to force an adult or a child to enter into marriage.

This meeting and the issued recommendations usefully feed the advisory opinion currently being prepared by the CNDH and which calls for the abolition of the derogation allowing early marriages in Morocco.


The South Programme III is a joint programme of the Council of Europe and the European Union, financed by the European Union and the Council of Europe and implemented by the Council of Europe.

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