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Advocates Push for DNA Paternity Tests in Morocco


Paternity Tests, woman abandons child to escape the shame of being an unmarried mother.

Aicha Ech-Chenna, working as a health educator around twenty-five years ago, once witnessed a young woman abandon her child at a hospital when she hadn't even finished breastfeeding.

DNA Paternity Tests - Shame of a Single Mother

The woman was unmarried and apparently couldn't face being an object of shame in a country where single mothers are seen as the legal equivalents of prostitutes.

Under existing Moroccan law, sexual relations outside marriage are a crime subject to imprisonment. However, society is improving and no single mother has been prosecuted under this law for more than ten years.

In 1985 Ech-Chenna launched Feminine Solidarity in Casablanca, a group that offers single mothers a three-year program to provide an income for them, along with training and three day care centres so they can keep their children while preparing for a job. The group also runs a support centre, which sees about six hundred visits a year and provides medical care.

DNA Paternity Tests - Limits of Legal Rights

Fatima (whose name has been changed) is one woman in the programme who experienced the limits of her legal rights. When she was seventeen she met a man who proposed to her and took her to visit an apartment where they would settle after their marriage. He then offered her a drink and she woke up hours later and realised she had been drugged and raped.

Fatima claims he then lured her into a relationship with promises of marriage and eventually she wound up pregnant. "I filed a complaint against him but while at the police station, I saw the police captain releasing him and telling him, 'Go, don't worry,'" Fatima says. "Then my dossier disappeared. Later I found out he had drugged another girl."

Feminine Solidarity offers a place for women like Fatima to adjust to life as a single mother and the centre has also begun helping women identify the fathers of their children, which has been made possible by the new family status law introduced in 2004.

Judges Can Order DNA Paternity Tests

One provision of this law is that a judge can order a man to undergo DNA paternity tests if a woman is able to prove she was engaged to him.

DNA paternity tests are a potentially valuable tool for single mothers because once a man is proven to be the father of a child he faces a legal obligation to take responsibility and provide financial support. When a man recognises his child following the conducting of DNA paternity tests, the woman stands a better chance of being accepted back into her family even if she remains unmarried.

However, the DNA new paternity tests law requires the woman to pay for the test, which costs about $350 and is too costly for many single women.

Mediating Between Fathers and Mothers

Given the complexities of applying the DNA paternity tests, Ech-Chenna and her staff began to reach out to the men, offering mediation sessions between them and mothers, hoping that they will either admit paternity or agree to take DNA paternity tests.

"We go to see the father and we convince him," Ech-Chenna says. "It is better than a judge who forces the father to recognise his child."

Feminine Solidarity successfully persuaded sixty men to take DNA paternity tests in the twelve months beginning August 2005 while only two DNA paternity tests were imposed by judges under the new law.

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