The Minister of Justice in Morocco announced that 32,000 requests for marriage to underage children were submitted last year, 81 per cent of which were approved.
The alarming stats reveal only 19 per cent of the total applications were refused by the judges in charge of the permits, which indicates that marriage of minors under 18 years is still prevalent in the country, and can no longer be considered an exception, stated Mohamed Ben Abd El-Kader in the House of Representatives.
Morocco had hoped to curb child marriages by raising the legal age to 18 from 16 in 2004, yet numbers since then are still soaring and this remains a persistent problem in the country, one with social, psychological, physical and economic costs to both the women affected and Moroccan society.
According to the government data, 98 per cent of the requests were submitted by the unemployed from rural areas, where families are often satisfied with a religious commitment and thereby escape the legal provisions on age.
Widely condemned as a violation of human rights, child marriage is associated with negative health outcomes – both physical and psychological.
Although the North African country reformed its family law, also known as "Moudawana" in 2004 to promote gender equality and stipulate equal rights in the family, it still allows young girls to marry before the legal age of 18 with the permission of a judge, and under circumstances such as a pregnancy and the union of adolescent girls is clearly increasing.
Human rights activists call for the abolition of articles of the family code that allow judges to certify marriages under certain conditions resulting in more than 30,000 underage girls having entered into arranged marriages in 2018.
Newspaper Akhbar Al Youm has reported a study provided by Droit & Justice, an organisation specialising in promoting "Rule of Law" in Morocco, showed that marriage requests belonging to females were higher than males by a rate of 99.31 per cent; there were more than 466,000 requests for the marriage of female minors, against 326 requests of males.
Some 48.99 per cent of marriage requests of female minors were rejected and 420,000 requests were accepted.
Bin Abd Al-Qadir acknowledged the decrease in requests for marriage to minors between 2015 and 2018, but addressed the problem of the Family Code, "which requires intervention," he stated.
He added the rights of girls must be restored and that "the state must preserve the child's right to education."