Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

Mauritania: The frequency of forced marriages (especially within the Ouleb Besba'h tribe or ethnic group); whether women can refuse an arranged marriage; government protection available to these women if they refuse to marry

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 7 July 2003
Citation / Document Symbol MRT41704.FE
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Mauritania: The frequency of forced marriages (especially within the Ouleb Besba'h tribe or ethnic group); whether women can refuse an arranged marriage; government protection available to these women if they refuse to marry, 7 July 2003, MRT41704.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3f7d4dd823.html [accessed 12 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

No information on forced marriages within the Ouleb Besba'h tribe or ethnic group could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints for this Response.

According to the document entitled "Étude sur le divorce en Mauritanie," published by the Secretary of State for the Status of Women in Mauritania, [translation] "[m]arriage [in Mauritania] is a ‘quasi-universal' social phenomenon because it represents the religious, legal and social framework within which sexual relations and reproduction take place" (Mar. 2002, 13). The same source indicated that the median age at first marriage is 17.1 years for women and 26.5 years for men (Mauritania Mar. 2002, 18).

With respect to the woman's involvement in the selection of her husband, the study indicates that 11 per cent of marriages take place without the woman's consent but with the family's approval (ibid., 24). Moreover, 29 per cent of women who enter into a first marriage to which they have not consented end up divorced (ibid., 25). The study, however, also noted that the number of marriages to which the woman has not consented is decreasing: [translation] "there is a significant decline in the number of cases in which the husband is chosen without the wife's consent (over 14% in the case of people 40 and older compared to only 7% among 15 to 19-year-olds), which indicates a significant decrease in this practice in Mauritania (ibid.). Country Reports on Human Rights Practice for 2002 also stated that this phenomenon is on the decline among the Moors in Mauritania (31 Mar. 2003, Sect. 5). The study by the Secretary of State for the Status of Women, however, concluded that [translation] "there is a strong correlation between a woman's level of education and her involvement in choosing a husband" (Mauritania Mar. 2002, 35).

Geographically speaking, marriages to which the wife has not consented are more common in the city of Nouakchott and in the northern region of the country, where 18 and 13 per cent of marital unions, respectively, are forced marriages (ibid., 25). As for tendencies among ethnic groups, the study noted that in 12 per cent of Arab marriages the family chooses the husband without the wife's consent, while the same is true for only 8 per cent of marriages among the Poulars, 7 per cent among the Sonikes, and 1 per cent among the Wolofs (ibid., 26).

With Mauritania's amendment of the Personnel Status Code (Code du statut personnel, CSP) in 2001, the minimum age for marriage was increased to 18 years, a woman's consent to her marriage became mandatory, and women were allowed to impose conditions on the marriage (United Nations n.d.). The Secretary of State for the Status of Women (SECF) in Mauritania created a strategy to promote and popularize the CSP, the first phase of which was carried out between 15 December 2002 and 15 January 2003 (ibid. Feb. 2003). In practice, it is possible for a woman to file for a divorce (Mauritania Mar. 2002, 29; Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002 31 Mar. 2003, Sect. 5).

No other information on the above-mentioned subject could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints for this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002. 31 March 2003. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 26 June 2003]

Mauritania. March 2002. Secretary of State for the Status of Women. Mohamed Lemine Salem Ould Moujtaba. "Étude sur le divorce en Mauritanie." [Accessed 26 June 2003]

United Nations. n.d. United Nations Population Fund (FNUAP).

"Promotion du statut juridique de la femme mauritanienne." [Accessed 26 June 2003]

_____. February 2003. United Nations Population Fund (FNUAP) "Vulgarisation du Code de statut personnel (CSP) : évaluation de la campagne radiophonique régionale." [Accessed 26 June 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

Attempts to contact the Organization Against Human Rights Violations (Organisation contre les violations des droits humains, OCVIH) in Mauritania and the Secretary of State for the Status of Women were unsuccessful.

IRB Databases

NEXIS

The United Nations Population Fund (FNUAP) in Mauritania could not respond to a request for information within the time constraints.

Tribus, ethnies et pouvoir en Mauritanie

Internet sites, including:

Afrik.com

Arabicnews.com

Center for Reproductive Rights

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

Division for the Advancement of Women

Famafrique

Maurifemme

Mauritanie-infos

Mauritanie-Net

Panos Institute of West Africa

Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Mauritania

WNC

Women Watch

Search engines, including:

Copernic

Google

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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