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Mali: Bill Seeking to Modernize Family Law Regime Defeated

(Oct. 12, 2010) Mali's Parliament is currently considering a watered-down version of the Family Code bill that it passed on August 2009 after Toumani Touré, Mali's President, refused to give his assent to it in the face of political pressure from religious conservatives and sent the bill back to Parliament for reconsideration (Mali's Parliament Continues Family Law Debate, RFI (Oct. 6, 2010),

The version currently under consideration seeks to undo the major changes proposed by the 2009 bill to the current family law regime. The 2009 bill introduced several far-reaching changes: it increased the minimum marriage to 18, outlawed customary and religious marriages in favor of statutory marriages, and recognized women's right to inherit. (Hanibal Goitom, Mali: Far-Reaching Changes Proposed by Legislature in New Family Code, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Aug. 19, 2009), //
). The current version of the bill re-introduces religious marriages, scales back women's rights to inherit, and eliminates the provisions of the earlier bill that recognized rights of children born out of wedlock (RFI, supra).

Rights groups who were behind the 2009 bill oppose the current version, while the reverse is true for the conservative religious organizations in Mali. The current version was said to have been drafted in consultation with and with the approval of the High Islamic Council, a religious organization that was adamant in its opposition to the 2009 bill (id.; Goitom, supra). Rights groups who have been calling for secularizing the family law regime and who supported the 2009 bill have been excluded from the drafting process of the current version. According to Brahima Kone, President of the Malian Association of Human Rights, rights groups were kept in the dark about the re-drafting process and only learned of the existence of the new version through press reports (id.).