Mali: 'Mali's New Family Law: Women's Rights Denied, Discrimination Upheld'


For more than 10 years, women in Mali have been waiting for the adoption of a Family law to protect their fundamental rights. Last week (2 December 2011), the Malian Parliament adopted a text which – far from increasing protection – eliminates rights and perpetuates discrimination.

A first draft of the Family Code, the fruit of many years of discussion and consultation, was adopted by the National Assembly in August 2009. Although the text did not enshrine equal rights between the sexes, it did contain significant advances. However, following protests by conservative forces, President Amadou Toumani Touré decided not to enact the law and to send in back to Parliament for a second reading. During the revision process, the central provisions - concerning the legal age for marriage, custody of children and inheritance - underwent such substantial changes that the modified text goes against the very principles of equal rights and non-discrimination.

According to the new Code, "a woman must obey her husband" and men are considered "head of the family". The legal age for marriage is 18 years for males and 16 for females. In certain cases, marriage can be authorised from 15 years. Religious marriages are legally recognised.

The new Code violates Mali’s international obligations, set out in instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified in 1985 and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, ratified in 2005.&

Our organisations have made repeated calls for the adoption of a Family Code which guarantees women’s human rights**. We have repeatedly sounded the alarm concerning the harmful consequences of weakening the text. While the demands of the High Islamic Council have been taken into account in the new law, recommendations made by civil society have been ignored.

With the adoption of this text, Mali has missed the opportunity to eliminate discrimination and harmful practices against women. Our organisations will continue the combat for a Family Law that protects women’s rights, in accordance with Mali’s international obligations.

* This Campaign, bringing together more than 100 NGOs in 40 African countries, was launched in 2009 by FIDH in collaboration with 4 regional organisations: Femmes Africa Solidarités (FAS), Women in Law in South Africa (WLSA), African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF).

** See, for example, the following statements published by the Campaign "Africa for women’s rights : ratify and respect!" and FIDH: