Malian Family Code
In 2009, an amendment was proposed (which has not yet been enacted) as widespread protests forced the president to send the bill back to parliament for review. The bill sought to increase women's rights in the country, but was still opposed by some women. The bill was condemned by most religious scholars. It was passed in 2009, but withdrawn later the same year.
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In 1962, Mali passed its first Family Code.
The proposed amendment would have recognised only civil marriages, while defining marriage as a secular institution, thus entitling a divorcee to a share of inheritance. Women would have also been allowed greater inheritance rights than what was stipulated by Shariah law, as they would not be required to obey their husbands. The "paternal power" would be replaced with "parental authority," and also said "no marriage can be renounced." Furthermore, the bill raised the legal age for marriage to 18 and allowed divorce if a couple had lived apart for at least three years. A child born outside of marriage would also be entitled to a share of any inheritance.
During the NGO Forum of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights in Banjul, an African women's rights groups called for the adoption of the bill, saying it "provides some crucial guarantees for Malian women's universal rights, [and] would constitute a fundamental first step towards bringing Malian laws into compliance with international and regional standards." The group cited Mali's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1985, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in 2005, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. It further said: "We are thus deeply concerned that the enactment of this legislation...is in suspense. Violations of Malian women's human rights are favored by this legislative gap. We stress the urgent need to adopt such a code...by ensuring that the second reading takes place without further delay and that the Family Code is enacted in its present form, without weakening of any of its provisions."
Mamadou Diamouténé, the head of a task group from the council, said that without the recommended changes, the bill would be "open road to debauchery. It is not that anyone can go wherever she wishes without her husband’s approval, because we cannot forget that the man is the head of the family."
Muslim leaders and other youth groups vowed to block the law and even threatened a campaign of violence. Threats against legislators, angry sermons, organised protest meetings and radio and television campaigns all attempted to rally opposition to the bill. Some Muslim leaders went so far as to call the law the work of the devil and against Islam. Tens of thousands marched in the streets to protest the law. In one such demonstration, 50,000 people rallied amidst calls that the bill was "an insult to the Koran."
Some women's groups were also opposed to the law. The president of the National Union of Muslim Women said that "only a tiny minority of woman here who want this new law. The poor and illiterate women of this country, the real Muslims, are against it".
President Touré reasserted that the struggle to pursue "the dual objective of promoting a wave of modernization while preserving the foundations of our society" would continue. He also said that failures to update and enforce the law "proves that societal change is not ordered by decree. [The] door of debate is still open."
As a result of public outcry, President Touré sent the bill back to parliament on August 27, 2009. "I have taken this decision to send the family code for a second reading to ensure calm and a peaceful society, and to obtain the support and understanding of our fellow citizens."
An amended version, endorsed by the High Islamic Council, the highest authority on Islam in the country, was tabled. This new bill included the reintroduction of religious marriage, altered the previous version's enhancement of women's inheritance rights, and changed the recognition of an illegitimate child. Other amendments being proposed, despite being blocked in the initial version, include:
- A husband and wife can keep separate homes only if the husband approves;
- A divorcée may keep her ex-husband’s name if he agrees;
- A girl would be allowed to get married at 15.
However these three proposals have not been made a part of law, whereas religious marriage is still going to be maintained
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