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Comoros: The status of women; whether forced marriages exist; the types of punishments inflicted on women who refuse to enter into forced marriages; state protection available to victims (February 2004)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 18 February 2004
Citation / Document Symbol COM42404.FE
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Comoros: The status of women; whether forced marriages exist; the types of punishments inflicted on women who refuse to enter into forced marriages; state protection available to victims (February 2004), 18 February 2004, COM42404.FE, available at: [accessed 23 October 2017]
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.

According to a United Nations report, Comoros acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women on 31 October 1994 (United Nations 27 Feb. 2003). However, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002 noted that, while domestic violence against women occurred in Comoros, it was rare (31 Mar. 2003, Sec. 5). The above-mentioned United Nations report added that, in Comoros, "while legal discrimination exists in some areas, in general inheritance and property rights do not disfavour women" (United Nations 27 Feb. 2003).

"In theory a woman could seek protection through the courts in the case of domestic violence, but it is addressed most often within the extended family or at the village level" (ibid.; see also Country Reports 2002 31 Mar. 2003, Sec. 5). The United Nations report also indicated that a woman's status varies depending on where she lives (United Nations 27 Feb. 2003). Women who live in towns have a higher status than those living in rural areas, where opportunities for education and wage employment are limited (ibid.).

No information on forced marriages of young women could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, one source did report that the father of a 19-year-old Comoran student who wanted to pursue her studies had warned her that she would have to give up school and marry a 45-year-old man (Syfia International 1 July 2001). That source also indicated that [translation] "thousands of Comoran girls are thus forced to give up school in order to prepare for a life of subservience to men-husbands, fathers, maternal uncles, brothers, and so forth-for whom a woman is the involuntary guardian of their honour" (ibid.).

With respect to marriage, two legal approaches are possible (Right to Education Project 1998). Under Muslim law, the age of majority is considered to be 14 to 15 years, and, in some cases, marriages may be arranged even earlier, especially for girls; the Comoran family code, however, provides that a man under the age of 22 and a woman under the age of 18 may not enter into marriage (ibid.). A United Nations report published on 23 October 2000 noted the lack of a uniform legal age for marriage and the occurrence of early marriages as an area of concern in Comoros.

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.


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002. 31 March 2003. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 16 Feb. 2004]

Right to Education Project. 1998. "At What Age ... Are School-Children Employed, Married and Taken to Court."

( [Accessed 16 Feb. 2004]

Syfia International. 1 July 2001. Ali Moindjie. "Les Comoriens préfèrent les filles instruites." [Accessed 16 Feb. 2004]

United Nations. 27 February 2003. Commission on Human Rights. Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective Violence Against Women. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Submitted in accordance with Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2002/52. (E/CN.4/2003/75/Add1). [Accessed 16 Feb. 2004]

_____. 23 October 2000. Committee on the Rights of the Child. Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Comoros. (CRC/C/15/Add.141). [Accessed 18 Feb. 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Confidential


Human Rights Watch (HRW)

The Indian Ocean Newsletter

IRB Databases

Jeune Afrique/L'Intelligent

La Lettre hebdomadaire de la FIDH

Resource Centre country file. Comoros

Internet sites, including:

African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET)


Aman News. The Arab Regional Resource Centre on Violence Against Women

Amnesty International


International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH)

Le Matin des Comores

Women Living Under Muslim Laws

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 Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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