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Mali: Far-Reaching Changes Proposed by Legislature in New Family Code

(Aug. 19, 2009) It was reported on August 11, 2009, that Mali's National Assembly adopted a controversial new Family Code that introduces far-reaching changes to the existing family laws. It sets the minimum marriage age at 18, abolishes the death penalty, recognizes the right of women to inherit, and recognizes as valid only statutory marriages, outlawing customary or religious marriages. (Threats of Violence Greet New Family Code, IRIN, Aug. 11, 2009, available at

The Code has earned high praise from women's rights groups. Oumou Touré, president of a national women's association of NGOs, called the Code a result of a constitutional and democratic demand for social justice. (Id.)

The reaction of religious groups, however, has been mixed. Mohamed Kimbiri, the secretary of Mali's highest ruling Islamic council, accused the National Assembly of disregarding religious leaders' suggestions in favor of those of foreign donor organizations and adopting a Code that does not reflect Mali's social values. Kimbiri did, however, signal his group's willingness to accept more moderate changes, in that he stated that his group is not “against the spirit of the Code.” Daouda Dia, another religious leader, recognized that women have been treated as second-class citizens and called the changes introduced by the Code necessary. (Id.)

The Code needs presidential assent to enter into force, and it appears unlikely that it will be enacted in its current form. Maharafa Traoré, Mali's Minister of Justice, noted that the Code was far from being perfect and that the government plans to “correct the gaps,” so that it could be enacted, thus hinting at the possibility of concessions to make it palatable to the conservative segment of the population. (Id.)