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Cablegate: The Marriage of Minors, Polygamy and Divorce: The

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHCL #0222/01 3261711
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 211711Z NOV 08
FM AMCONSUL CASABLANCA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8205
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN IMMEDIATE 0018
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 0382
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID IMMEDIATE 3831
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT IMMEDIATE 2366
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS IMMEDIATE 0670
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE IMMEDIATE 0141

UNCLAS CASABLANCA 000222

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG AND G/DRL/TIP AND WMN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KWMN KTIP KISL MO
SUBJECT: THE MARRIAGE OF MINORS, POLYGAMY AND DIVORCE: THE
MUDAWANA FOUR YEARS ON

1. SUMMARY: (U) Women,s groups and the media roundly
criticized the government,s failure to implement some
aspects of the Mudawana or family code nearly four years
after the ground-breaking reforms were passed. The criticism
was prompted by a recent report by the Democratic League for
the Rights of Women (LDDF) which shows that the number of
requests for marriage of minor girls has increased over the
last few years and that judges approved these requests in
nearly 90% of all cases. The LDDF is a respected NGO, whose
views tend to reflect a broader consensus in the moderate
feminist community. The report also sheds insight into the
state of polygamy and divorce in Morocco and the achievements
and shortcomings of the government in enforcing these
reforms. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------
The Mudawana: Family Code Reform
--------------------------------

2. (U) The landmark reforms contained in the Mudawana were
passed in 2004 after a contentious battle within the Moroccan
society that saw stringent opposition from Islamic and
conservative groups who characterized the reforms as an
attack on Islamic and Moroccan tradition. The reforms
finally were passed when King Mohammed VI intervened in their
favor and brokered a compromise. The Mudawana reforms made
divorce procedures more equitable by abolishing divorce by
repudiation and gave women greater legal independence by
removing the need for a woman to have a male &marriage
tutor8 oversee the negotiation of her marriage contract.
Most importantly, the new law raised the minimum age of
marriage from 15 to 18 years of age and required that a judge
approve any requests for underage marriages and polygamy.

---------------------------
Obstacles to Implementation
---------------------------

3. (U) The NGO Ligue Democratique Pour les Droits des Femmes
(Democratic League for the Rights of Women - LDDF) released
its annual report on implementation of the Mudawana in early
October to commemorate the Moroccan Day of the Woman. The
figures quoted in their report were taken from the Moroccan
Ministry of Justice as well as from seven regional courts
including large urban centers such as Casablanca, Rabat, and
Marrakech. The President of LDDF, Fouzia Assouli, told
poloff that despite significant reform, the Mudawana was
written to give family court judges discretionary power to
adjudicate petitions which she believes have been widely
abused. Assouli reported that often families, especially in
rural areas, will marry their daughters and then present them
to the judge as a fait accompli. Moreover, she claimed that
in addition to some judges, &backward mentality8 there is
widespread bribing of judges to ensure a favorable outcome.

------------------
Marriage of Minors
------------------

4. (U) Although the marriage of minors accounts for only 10%
of all marriages in Morocco, many women,s rights groups view
it as a litmus test of the government,s resolve to implement
the Mudawana reforms. The report by the LDDF shows that in
2007 there were 38,710 marriage requests for minors, an
increase of 28% in comparison to 30,312 in 2006. Notably,
petitions for minor marriages in rural areas increased by
50%, whereas urban area requests only increased 9%. The
overall approval rate of all underage marriage requests
remained steady at around 88% for the last two years. Nearly
70% of the requests involved girls who were at least 17 years
of age, an improvement from 2006 when 17-year-olds only
accounted for 44% of the total. Still, there were 159 cases
of 14 year old girls approved for marriage in 2007 and 1,862
of 15 year olds. Assouli attributes the overall high
approval numbers to corruption and the conservative mentality
of judicial officials.

---------
Polygamy:
---------

5. (U) The Mudawana reformed polygamy laws by requiring a
husband to notify his current wife and seek permission from a

judge before taking a second wife. Furthermore, a man must
demonstrate that he has the financial means to support a
second wife and he may also be required by the judge to
provide an "exceptional objective argument" such as a medical
reason (i.e. the infertility of the first wife). The LDDF
report indicates that both the number of petitions and the
acceptance rate for marrying a second wife remained largely
unchanged from last year. In 2006 there were 1,450 petitions
with an acceptance rate of 31% and in 2007 there were 1,427
petitions with an acceptance of 30%. These numbers are a
significant change from 2005, the year immediately following
the passage of the Mudawana, when there was an 85% acceptance
rate. The Ministry of Justice, however, has not provided any
statistics on the number of petitions that were approved in
2005.

--------
Divorce:
--------

6. (U) Prior to the passage of the Mudwana reforms, a husband
could in practice divorce his wife by repudiation and was not
required to notify her until the divorce was final. The
Mudawana now includes greater legal protections to ensure
that a woman receives financial compensation from a divorce
and cannot be forced out of the family home if she is the
guardian of the children. Prior to the reforms a woman
seeking to initiate a divorce had limited options that were
often prejudicial to her financial interests. A woman could
obtain either a Khula (compensation) divorce where she paid
compensation (usually her dowry) to her husband or file a
Shikak (complaint) citing the husband,s failure to fulfill
his marital obligations. The Mudawana reforms created a new
class of divorce by mutual consent. The total number of
divorces per year between 2005 and 2006 has remained steady
around 28,000 cases. There was a decrease of 10% in the
number of Khula divorces and increase by 22% of mutual
consent divorces between 2006 and 2007. The number of Shikak
divorces increased by 80% from 10,313 in 2006 to 18,562 in
2007, a fact that Assouli attributes to women being more
aware of their rights and thus seeking compensation.

7. (U) Perhaps the most telling statistic is the marked
decrease in the number of total divorces in the country from
50,763 in 1998 to 27,904 in 2007 or a decrease of 55%.
Assouli credits the decrease in the divorce rate to the
Mudawana reforms and believes that since husbands are no
longer able to divorce their wives without providing
financial compensation they are more reluctant to do so.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: The government of Morocco, relative to
other Arab countries, has made great strides in advancing the
legal rights of women. However, the LDDF report demonstrates
that in some areas it has failed to ensure the reforms are
comprehensively implemented and that judicial officials are
held accountable for failing to protect minors. Morocco has
an activist and energetic women,s rights movement which
strives to hold the government to account. The woman's
movement is also pushing for greater legal reform and
considers changing the inequitable inheritance laws which
favors male inheritors to be a top priority. END COMMENT.

9. (U) This message has been coordinated with Embassy Rabat.
MILLARD

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