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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Determinants of child and forced marriage in Morocco: stakeholder perspectives on health, policies and human rights

Alexia Sabbe1*, Halima Oulami2, Wahiba Zekraoui2, Halima Hikmat2, Marleen Temmerman34 and Els Leye1

Author Affiliations

1 ICRH - International Centre for Reproductive Health, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, Ghent University, De Pintelaan 185 UZP114, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

2 AEDF - Association El Amane pour le Développement de la Femme, Avenue Ben Noussair, Sidi Youssef Ben Ali, Marrakech, Morocco

3 WHO - World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

4 Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

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BMC International Health and Human Rights 2013, 13:43  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-13-43

Published: 16 October 2013

Abstract

Background

In Morocco, the social and legal framework surrounding sexual and reproductive health has transformed greatly in the past decade, especially with the introduction of the new Family Law or Moudawana. Yet, despite raising the minimum age of marriage for girls and stipulating equal rights in the family, child and forced marriage is widespread. The objective of this research study was to explore perspectives of a broad range of professionals on factors that contribute to the occurrence of child and forced marriage in Morocco.

Methods

A qualitative approach was used to generate both primary and secondary data for the analysis. Primary data consist of individual semi-structured interviews that were conducted with 22 professionals from various sectors: health, legal, education, NGO’s and government. Sources of secondary data include academic papers, government and NGO reports, various legal documents and media reports. Data were analyzed using thematic qualitative analysis.

Results

Four major themes arose from the data, indicating that the following elements contribute to child and forced marriage: (1) the legal and social divergence in conceptualizing forced and child marriage; (2) the impact of legislation; (3) the role of education; and (4) the economic factor. Emphasis was especially placed on the new Family Code or Moudawana as having the greatest influence on advancement of women's rights in the sphere of marriage. However, participants pointed out that embedded patriarchal attitudes and behaviours limit its effectiveness.

Conclusion

The study provided a comprehensive understanding of the factors that compound the problem of child and forced marriage in Morocco. From the viewpoint of professionals, who are closely involved in tackling the issue, policy measures and the law have the greatest potential to bring child and forced marriage to a halt. However, the implementation of new legal tools is facing barriers and resistance. Additionally, the legal and policy framework should go hand in hand with both education and increased economic opportunities. Education and awareness-raising of all ages is considered essential, seeing that parents and the extended family play a huge role in marrying off girls and young women.

Keywords:
Child and forced marriage; Morocco; Women’s rights; Sexual and reproductive health; Violence