Combatting Underage Marriage through Legal Awareness (CUMLA) Project
According to the latest UNICEF report, underage marriage is a widespread global issue. In 2013, more than 700 million young girls were married, 250 million of whom were under 15 years old. This phenomenon is particularly prevalent in South Asia, where 50% of girls are married before age 18, and Sub-Saharan Africa where statistics are not much better, with 1/3 of girls forced into marriage before their 18th birthdays.
In Morocco underage marriage remains a cultural phenomenon, despite laws that were structured to prevent it, because the country’s citizenry is still strongly influenced by tradition. The spread of underage marriage in Morocco has many different causes, however its consequences are always the same.
Despite reforms adopted by the new Moudawana (Family Code) in 2004—notably those concerning underage marriage (article 20 raised the legal age of marriage for girls from 15 to 18)—a significant increase in underage marriage was recorded in the past decade, rising from 18,341 cases in 2004 to 35,152 in 2013. Alarmingly, 2010 saw a spike in the rate of underage marriage in Morocco to 41,098.
In light of these alarming statistics, several articles of the Moudawana (Family Code) were highlighted by the Moroccan feminist movements. The organization Promotion des Droit des Femmes (IPDF) underlined this problem in one ofits studies, “The Illegal Exploitation of Article 16 of the Family Code.” ThisMoudawanaarticle aimed to facilitate the legal recognition of traditional underage (Fatiha) marriages to help couples make their unions official and resolve major issues such as barriers to education for their children. Today, the controversy over underage marriage is even greater, as a draft amendment of Article 20 was presented in the House of Representatives to fix the age of marriage to 16 years in Morocco despite the clarity of the Constitution on this subject and the international commitments of the Kingdom.
Faced with the resurgence of this phenomenon, Droit et Justice launched CUMLA in 2014. With the support of KVINFO, the Embassy of Canada, and the Embassy of Norway, this project educates young girls between the ages of 9 and 17, their parents, and communities about the consequences of underage marriage practices. With the collaboration and participation of local associations, Droit et Justice works to establish networks of stakeholders concerned with this problem in order to raise local awareness of the negative consequences of underage marriage.
To date, Droit et Justice has succeeded in educating more than 500 women, including 250 underage girls. We have assisted with more than 27 cases related to underage marriage, including 16 cases involving minor girls. Through the CUMLA project, Droit et Justice has also mobilized local networks consisting of more than 30 representatives of pro bono organizations and activists.