Rabat – Child marriage continues to be an issue in Morocco despite the country’s attempt to curb underage marriage, especially for girls, by raising the legal marriage age from 16 to 18 in Article 20 of the 2004 Mudawana (Family Code).Child marriages can be legalized if the family gets a waiver for the minor. The number of waiver requests for minors increased to 41,669 in 2015, compared to 38,331 in 2007, according to the Moroccan High Commission of Planning (HCP).Ninety-nine percent of the requests were for female minors. Among the requests made, adouls (notaries) accepted 85 percent and rejected 15 percent. The “Droit & Justice,” an organization specializing in promoting “Rule of Law” in Morocco found that 30,000 female minors get married each year in Morocco.The organization revealed that of the 33,253 marriage contracts in 2009 and 35,152 in 2013 in Morocco, a total of 30,000 involved females under the age of eighteen.The study suggested that the increase in marriages of minors in Morocco goes back to the influence of traditional customs and to a crisis of deteriorated values.Read Also: Report: Young Moroccans in Netherlands Prefer to Marry LaterWhile some families may instill the desire for early marriage in their children at a young age, others may pressure their daughters or sons into marrying young.According to the 2018 global estimates of child marriages by UNICEF, the practice of child marriage has continued to decline in the past 10 years as 25 million child marriages have been prevented.“The global number of child brides is now estimated at 650 million. 12 million is the number of girls married in childhood each year, according to the latest prevalence and population figures,” wrote UNICEF.Women are marrying younger, men are marrying older The average marriage age for women in Morocco is 25. The HCP report noted that between 2004 and 2014, the average marriage age for females dropped from 26 to 25. Meanwhile for men, it has increased from the age of 30 to 31 between 1994 and 2014.Regionally, the Guelmim-Oued Noun region in southern Morocco has the oldest average age for marriage. Women marry in their late 20s and men in their early 30s in the region.Women mostly marry in their early 20s and men in their 30s in the regions of Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab and Draa-Tafilalet.While the report stated that the statistics did not observe the fertility rate for women in Morocco, it indicated that 67 percent of women were using birth control in 2011.The celibacy rate has risen in Morocco in the past two decades, particularly in cities. The rate of people who prefer to stay single throughout their lives increased from 2.9 percent in 1994 to 5.1 percent in 2014 for men and from 0.8 percent to 6.7 percent for women.In urban areas, it has increased to 5.9 percent for men and 8 percent for women.Despite the 2004 Mudawana’s Article 20 that criminalizes the marriage of Moroccan citizens under the age of 18, child marriage is increasing.