Family Law Reform, Gender Equality, and Underage Marriage
Prettitore, Paul Scott
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Family codes in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region cover issues of personal status, which include marriage, divorce, child custody and support, alimony, and inheritance. In terms of marriage, codes usually cover such issues as marriage contracts, ownership of marital assets, responsibility for financial maintenance of the family, and the minimum age of marriage. There are different codes for different religions—primarily Islam and Christianity, but also Judaism—with varying degrees of similarity. Application of a respective code is based on the religion of the individual. The extent to which religious principles are reflected in respective family codes varies by country, and the extent to which certain principles are religious in nature is often open to debate. Civil marriage is rarely available, thus the vast majority of marriages are done through family courts. Many countries have specialized courts, either civil or religious, with jurisdiction over family law issues. This article explores the issue of marriage of minors as linked with the reform of family codes in Morocco and Jordan, and in particular the role of judicial bodies in providing a check on such marriages.