Her name is Naima, she is fifteen, she lives in a village that is 50 km south of Marrakech with her parents and seven siblings. Like most village girls, Naima went to primary school for only four years. The nearest high school is 20 km away from her house and buying a used bicycle is out of reach for the family budget!
And then again, what would an education and a trade do for Naima, for her destiny as a woman is to marry and take care of her home? Our daughter is certainly better off at home and away from people’s gossip, decided her father.
Naima has become a small helpful hand for her family. Obedient and resigned, she helps her mother with the household chores, takes care of the livestock and minds her little brothers and sisters. She is conditioned, trained and programed to find a husband and care for her off-springs. And the sooner the better: In the country side, we marry girls at 18, even at 16 years! And beyond this venerable age, it is difficult to find them husbands.
When she turned 14, her parents started an intense search for the right party, a young man from nearby (one must have the same values, after all) That can support his new family and especially be able to pay the dowry.
Meet Bouazza, he left his family to immigrate to Italy. Each summer, he parades around the village with a used (probably stolen) Mercedes car with Italian license plates. He may leave our daughter prematurely widowed if he gets involved in coke trafficking and score settling a-la-Kalashnikov, like the poor Ali, the son of our neighbor last year!
Meet the lazy Bouchta. he idled for over a year and is regularly smoking pot and has already squandered the meager inheritance bequeathed by his late father.
There is also haj Abdallah, who is turning 60. He is interested in marrying our virginal Naima for his third wedding. The girl would never accept to marry him even if his promises to buy her gifts, bronze ornaments and a goat fur ( it there is such a thing!) are tempting. Eventually, his dentures spoiled any chances he had.
Then there is Abbass, a nice boy from the village, 24 year old. He is a construction worker in Casablanca where he lives in a house on loan from his brother. He meets the minimum conditions to provide for his future wife and eventual offsprings!
After a few days of procrastination, Naima finally gave her assent. She is a 15 year old teenager, What could she expect? It is true that she has only met Abbass twice, always in the presence of her parents. But Abbas had youth and a pleasant smile. The imagination and romance of a young girl and the Turkish and Egyptian soaps she watches daily on the family’s small TV helped her to make a decision. Naima is now in love with Abbass and is looking forward to the the marriage that would help her escape her daily routine.
Then there is the issue of Naima being a minor. But that is no problem. The application to the local judge for a waiver to issue a marriage license was accepted quickly (with the help of a small bribe, of course).
One wonders what is the use of the new family law “moudawana”. Why set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years if you are going to deliver waivers to every 15 year old girl’s parents?
With the license in hand and the required health certificates, especially the prized “certificate of virginity” from the local health center (the family would not mind sticking it on a billboard and post it at the entrance of the village, if they could), the parties were on their way to the judge’s office to formalize the marriage.
When it was time to present the dowry; a gold ring, some clothes and $300 to be paid directly to the father, he changed his mind and asked for an additional $250. He threatened to cancel the marriage otherwise.
The groom and his father were not happy at this last minute about-face and refused to pay up. The father then asked the judge to put away the marriage license that he would not sign. Volleys of insults ensued between the parties.
Who does this young man and his father think they are? Naima is certainly worth the extra $250! Raising her up certainly cost a lot more than that! She is now a beautiful virgin with wide hips ready to bring to this world off springs that would make any husband happy!
Naima and her fiance were left in tears!
There was not to be a Wedding on that day. However, the following week, since the judge’s waiver to issue a marriage certificate is still valid, one has to harry, especially that now people are wondering about the reasons for this sudden annulment. Naima was summoned by her father and was asked to seal her fate to another man, living in the city of Agadir this time. She has never met him, but whose father was able to come up with the additional $250 .
Here is how in Morocco, the most beautiful country in the world, in the 21st century, our girls are excluded from education and sold like livestock and given away in marriage to the highest bidder!