This chapter considers laws and social realities determining the status of the Moroccan child born inside or outside of marriage. It considers first, the legal grounds for filiation and second, the legal framework for guardianship of parentless (abandoned or orphaned) children. In both the legal and social approaches to these two issues, there are several constants over time, especially the strong – but not absolute – influence of Maliki jurisprudence. Proposed reforms in the deeply conservative fields of family and guardianship laws indicate that judges are not only considering the 2011 Moroccan Constitution, the 2004 Family Code (Moudawana) and the 2002 kafala (guardianship) law, but also the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and its concept of the best interests of the child. I argue that in regards to kafala guardianships, which are handled under contract law rather than family law in Morocco, the state occupies an ambivalent position, mandating replacement care at the level expected of biological parents while denying the child the rights and responsibilities of biological children. Recent cases in the Moroccan courts question longstanding conservative approaches to gender as well as family, raising the possibility of female-headed families (not only households) by issuing family booklets to women, and increasing calls to recognize biological paternity as entailing responsibilities otherwise only expected of fathers with paternal filiation through marriage.


Morocco Adoption Family Family law Islamic guardianship Private international law 



This paper benefitted from research assistance by Madeline Ewbank, Isabelle Laskero, and Mathilde Karekezi. Funding for portions of this research was provided by the Institute for Advanced Study in Lyon (the Collegium) and by the Northwestern University Office of Undergraduate Research. Earlier iterations of the project benefitted from discussion with members of the Max Planck Working Group on Child Law and Collegium fellows. I wish to thank in particular the Social and Political Dynamics of Private Life working group of the Max Weber Center, Université de Lyon 2, and especially Gaelle Clavandier and Isabelle Sayn. Exchanges with Jamila Bargach undergird my inquiry and analysis. All errors remain my own.


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser press and the authors 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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