The National Assembly approved a draft of a new Family Code in August 2009 but following intense protests from Islamic groups – many of whom were women – President Amadou Toumani Toure declined to sign the new Code into law, and instead sent it back to Parliament for a second reading.
Although the Code was originally designed to change provisions regarding age at marriage, custody of children, inheritance, and the stipulation that a wife should obey her husband,
the revisions ultimately made more conservative changes, in some cases arguably more discriminatory than in the past.
The new Family Code officially passed into law in 2011.
According to the new Code, men are considered “head of the household” (art. 319) and women are required to obey their husbands (art. 316).
The legal age of marriage
is 18 years for males and 16 for females. In certain cases, marriage can be authorised from 15 years with a judge’s permission and consent of the parents.
In addition, religious marriages are now legally recognized.
Although it is a criminal offence to abduct a woman or a girl to force her into marriage (punishable by up to ten years in prison), the law is not effectively enforced.
In practice, women tend to marry at relatively early ages; data for early marriage
is as follows: of adult women aged 25-49 questioned for the 2006 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 23% were married before the age of 15, 66% before the age of 18, and 95% before the age of 25.
The 2006 DHS also indicates that 52.6% of girls aged between 15 and 19 years were married, divorced or widowed.
Moreover, reported data from 2013 reveals that 55% of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married or in union before they were 18 years old, ranking Mali 15th
country in the world, within the 20th
As described above, the 2011 Family Code provides that husbands are the heads of families and the Civil Code grants them sole family and parental authority
That said, in polygamous marriages, the husband is only considered to be the head of the family that he establishes with his first wife; subsequent wives are considered to be the heads of their respective households.
Overall, women head 12.3% of households in Mali.
The 2011 Family Code also provides that husbands decide where the family will live and their wives are obliged to obey.
Under the Family Code, a man can appoint a legal guardian to look after the interests of his children in the event of his death: in such cases, the mother must consult the guardian in all legal matters pertaining to her children, and may lose custody of them if she remarries.
is governed by Sharia, customary, and civil law, depending on the identity of the person concerned.
Under the 2011 Family Code, female and male surviving spouses have equal inheritance rights to property, as do sons and daughters.
Under sharia law, however, daughters are entitled to receive only half the share received by sons.
A further discrimination is that women can inherit only poor quality land that is not very fertile.
Customary law followed by certain ethnic groups views the wife as part of the inheritance, and obliges her to marry a brother of her deceased husband, who then receives all of the estate and assumes custody of the children.
In other communities, when a woman dies, her younger sister is expected to marry the widower.
In 2006, 28.86% of widows inherited the majority of assets after the death of their spouses.
is legal according to Mali’s Marriage Code and under the teachings of Islam, the religion practised by nearly all of the population; men may marry up to four women. The husband must obtain the permission of the first wife before he marries again, although consent is often obtained through coercion and abuse.
It is estimated that 39% of women are in polygamous marriages, including 20% of married girls aged 15-19.
In some regions, discriminatory or
harmful practices relating to marriage persist, such as arranging a girl’s marriage when she is born, giving a daughter in marriage to a witch doctor for religious reasons, or exchanging women between families or communities in order to strengthen relations between them.
The present context of political and economic instability, and recent intense military conflict, has also been accompanied by an increase in forced marriages.
Legally, either spouse may petition for divorce
, but in rural areas women rarely initiate proceedings because of strong social pressure and fears of losing custody of their children.
The adolescent fertility rate for 15-19 year olds, according to the preliminary 2012-2013 Demographic and Health Survey, is 172 per 1000 women.
When it comes to decision-making, women surveyed in the 2006 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) report that it is primarily their husband or partner who make decisions regarding both large household purchases (68.0%) and daily household purchases.
However, 86.9% of women report they primarily decide the use of the money they earn.
 BBC (2009); Amnesty International (2010) p.220; Jones-Casey et al. (2011) p.4 IRIN (2010); African for Women’s Rights (2010)  The Guardian (2012)  World Bank (2013)  IRIN (2010); US State Department (2012)  Idem  IRIN (2010)  DHS (2007) p.85  Idem UNICEF (2012)  World Bank (2013)  DHS (2007) p.15  Idem, p.16  World Bank (2013)  World Bank (2013)  FAO (n.d.)  World Bank (2013)  Jones et al. (2011) p.2  Idem, pp.60, 61  Idem, pp.14, 24  Idem, p.23  Chronic Poverty Research Centre (2011) p.20  CEDAW (2004) p.63  DHS (2007) p.82  CEDAW (2004) p.14, 63  US State Department (2012)  Purdy, E.R. (2013) p.747  DHS (2012-2013) p.9  DHS (2007) p.279  DHS (2007) p.276