The “nightmare” of underage marriage for Moroccan girls

Nadia was only 16 years old when she married a violent husband who was old enough to be a father. Thousands of Moroccan girls are faced each year because of legal loopholes.

“I went through hell, but the nightmare is now behind me,” she said.

Nadia, who lives in a remote part of the Anti-Atlas Mountains in the Kingdom of North Africa, won a divorce after a year of marriage.

Now 20 years old and living with her parents in the village of Tamarute, she is learning to read and write.

“My dream is to be self-reliant. I encourage other girls in the village to do the same,” she shyly said. Her face was half covered with a scarf.

Like other women with similar stories quoted in this article, her name has been changed to protect her identity.

Morocco’s 2004 Family Law stipulates that the statutory marriage age is 18, but includes provisions that allow judges to give their families a special diploma to marry a child under that age. ..

Rights groups have long sought to close loopholes.

However, according to official figures, the judge approved about 13,000 exemptions in 2020 alone. This is more than half of the total application.

The figures do not include minors married in customary marriages. Although not permitted by law, a poem from the Koran is briefly read and sealed with two witnesses.

“This tragedy is widespread in remote areas, landlocked countries, and surrounding areas,” said Najat Ikhich, a YTTO rights group.

For the past decade, her association has stopped escorting Morocco’s secluded mountainous communities each year, raising awareness of the dangers of underage marriage, organizing debates and distributing aid. increase.

Unstable livelihoods and long traditions have made the group’s mission particularly sensitive.

“Because it’s a taboo subject, it’s a delicate task, so it’s important to earn the trust of the people you meet, and above all, to listen to their opinions,” says Ikhich.

-Battle for independence-

In the nearby village of Tamadoguste, the hills dotted with the region’s famous argan trees were barely soul-moving.

Several young women gathered to bake bread in a communal oven.

Ikhich approached Amazigh, a Berber language in Morocco, and exchanged some words with them.

The suspicious look of the woman was soon replaced by a flood of complaints about the standard of living in a village without schools or pharmacies.

Amina, 23, said she was trying to “dominate” her life after graduating from school at age 6 and getting married at age 17.

“I always wanted to study, but no one helped me. My three sisters were even worse. They had a very young marriage, about 14 years old. “She said.

According to the latest official statistics from 2014, more than 44% of women in the Susumasa region are illiterate.

Karima Errejraji, YTTO’s South Moroccan coordinator, said educating women and making them financially independent is the key to tackling their children’s marriage.

She had never been to school as a child and married a 56-year-old man at the age of 14. This is four times as old as her.

“I got out of it by joining the association,” she said. “I decided to devote my life to helping girls in the area.”

In Tamadghouste’s communal oven, women are discussing how to make a living and gain autonomy by making carpets and selling traditional bread to nearby hotels.

They agreed on one thing: every girl has the right to education.

Bright-eyed 23-year-old Isa, who married six years ago, said her daughter was fighting for education.

“She has to build herself, be self-reliant, and not fall into my situation,” she said.

ko / agr / par / jsa / jkb