Issues of health and poverty are often viewed as arising from the people who they affect. This results in the pathologization of vulnerable populations and diverts attention away from far-reaching factors that contribute to these issues. In Morocco, administrative intricacies can make medical care and social services difficult to access, especially for single mothers and their children. The official pathway to public services is registration in l’état civil, the civil registry. Although enrollment is compulsory, the requirements can be overwhelming for single mothers to complete, let alone within the registration deadline of 30 days after giving birth.
Despite the existence of an official route for single mothers to register their children, strong connections between society, religion and patriarchy create stigma that can cause cooperation problems between concerned parties in the registration process. These connections are reinforced by Moroccan law, which deems punishable sexual relations out of wedlock. Due to shame and fear of legal retribution, many single mothers abandon or hide their children. Fortunately, punishing mothers has become less of a priority since the 2004 Family Code reforms, which aimed to put the wellbeing of children first and give single mothers more autonomy in registering their children.
Ostensibly, the reformed Family Code simplifies the registration process by allowing a single mother to declare her child by inventing a name for the father using an approved list and a formula that requires the first name to begin with Abd (e.g. Abd al-Haq). Still, the reforms do not permit mothers to obtain a Livre de Famille, the document that lists family members and proves their civil status. Only men can obtain this book upon marriage. Additionally, there are still many issues with implementing the reforms, due to the lack of coordinated policies between different municipalities and the reluctance of personnel in the judiciary to adapt to a new set of procedures.
Image: Feliciano Guimarães.