In Mali, the total population is 19.6 million (estimated as of mid-2020). According to figures from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Worship, Muslims make up about 95% of the population. They are almost all Sunni and most follow the precepts of Sufism; however, a prominent Shia imam said that up to 10 percent of Muslims would be Shia.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Worship is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the national strategy to combat violent extremism, the promotion of religious tolerance and the coordination of religious activities at the national level, such as pilgrimages and religious holidays for the faithful of all religions.

Information About Muslim Family Laws And/or Practices In Mali

Main Laws Governing Marriage and Family

The Personal and Family Code is the main codified law that governs marriage and family relations in Mali and is the only code that govern marriages ether civil or Muslim marriage.

Equality in Marriage and Family

Article 316 of the Personal and Family Code stipulate that the wife must obey her husband and the husband must protect his wife; All articles mentioned are from The Personal and Family Code,

Article 319 provides that the husband is the head of the family and he is responsible for the financial maintenance of the family. The wife with income may contribute to the household expenses.ibid 

Minimum Age of Marriage

The age of marriage was 18 for both sexes but because of Muslim religious reaction and pressure on the government, the code was sent back for rereading, in the actual code it is 18 for the boys and 16 for girls.  The women’s organizations filed a complaint against the government on the basis of CEDAW, the CRC and the Maputo conventions with the African Court and won their case.EJI! Talk, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights Delivers Landmark Ruling on Women’s Rights and the Rights of the Child in Mali, July 27, 2018 Since 2019 and up to now the change is not happening.

Divorce Provisions for Men and Women

Yes, either man or woman can ask for divorce. Article 325 of the PFC, divorce can be obtained on the basis of mutual consent, a breakdown in marital relations or by fault of a spouse.

Or, a spouse may ask for divorce on the grounds of prolonged breakdown of the relationship where: (i) the spouses have lived separately for three years; i.e. immigration and or longer spousal absence. 

Or ask divorce on the grounds of fault include: (i) adultery; (ii) excesses; (iii) abuse or serious insults rendering married life impossible; (iv) the conviction of a spouse for a serious crime; (v) serious alcoholism or drug addiction; (vi) failure to honour a substantial commitment.

In addition, a wife may seek divorce if the husband refuses to provide her with basic needs such as food, housing, healthcare etc.

There is also a marriage cancellation if the husband is married with more than four spouses at a time.

Positive Feature(s) Under Muslim Family Law

The choice of matrimonial option that give the power to woman to control her resources

Article 388: The regime of separation of property is the legal regime in marriages contracted under the option of polygamy or monogamy.

Spouses who opt for monogamy have the right to choose one of the regimes of community of property provided, the Personal and Family Code recognizes different regimes:

– separation of property;

– the universal property;

– the property reduced to acquestsproperty acquired during the marriage other than private property;

– other communities agreed between the spouses

Article 428: the dissolved community, each of the spouses takes back the property that is specific to him, if they exist in kind, or those acquired in employment or re-employment. It is then necessary to liquidate the common mass, active and passive

Inheritance may be upon a written will, according to the law, inheritance can also be devolved according to the rules of religious and customary law of the parties.

Islamic religious marriage are registered in civilian law, this gives the women all rights as in civilian marriages.

Administration Of And Access To Justice On Marriage And Family Matters

Common law is applied.

Either man or woman can ask for divorce based on the Article 325 of the Personal and Family Code 

Marriage is a public act so may be celebrated at the mosque, civilian administration and other places. The book on marriage stipulate a special article on consent and matrimonial regime.

In many cases illiterate women does not have information on access to justice them may be faced to injustice in divorce proceedings.

Constitutional Provisions and National Legislation

Constitutional Provisions

The Constitution specifies that Mali is a secular State,The Constitution of the Republic of Mali, 1992 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and guarantees freedom of religion in accordance with the law. In September, the transitional government, formed after the August coup, adopted the Transitional Charter, which recognized the extension of the validity of the 1992 Constitution, which defines Mali as a secular state and prohibits discrimination based on religion in accordance with the law.

Under the Penal Code,Mali Penal Code, 2001 any act of discrimination based on religion or any act that interferes with freedom of religious practice or worship is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment or 10 years’ banishment from the country. It also stipulates that any persecution on religious grounds against a group of persons constitutes a crime against humanity. There is no statute of limitations for these crimes.

Other National Laws

Mali does not have a legislation on domestic violence and or Gender based violence. We have worked on a draft law on Gender Based Violence (GBV) since 2015 up to now, yet have not been able to make the law adopted because of religious leaders that oppose its adoption. Withdrawn under pressure from religious leaders in March 2021. Still engaging and organizing around the subject as it still raises controversy, sometimes between misunderstanding, religious interpretation and the weight of traditions, the fight against GBV is struggling to succeed in Mali.

The Penal Code does not have provision on marital rape.Mali Penal Code, 2001 It is not recognized as rape and is supported by traditional and Islamic religious interpretation i.e in “marriage women belong to men, women is the men’s garden”. We do not have a provision on harmful traditional practices, there are sanctions on intentional blows and injuries but which have never been used given the involvement of the direct family members in the act.

Regional or International Human Rights Principles

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

Mali ratified the CEDAW convention in September 1985 without reservations. Mali also ratified the Optional Protocol in 1999, with the last review on 12 July 2016 in Geneva.Mali – UN Treaty Bodies Database

  • Links to CEDAW reports that refer to Muslim family laws and practices
    1. Combined second, third, fourth, and fifth periodic report,CEDAW,,MLI,41174ee24,0.html
  • Links to Concluding Observations That Refer to Reform of Muslim Family Laws and Practices
    1. Concluding Comments on January – February 2006
    2. There were questions raised on  the Government’s position to change stereotypes, the necessity to take into account Islam’s vision of women and to make efforts to that end. As there are many traditions that wrongly attribute discriminatory traditions and how do they deal with the issue of religion and traditions? What was the role of spiritual leaders and attempts to counter the Government’s plans for gender equality?
    3. The minimum age of marriage: 18 for boys and 16 for girls.
    4. Female genital mutilation
    5. Child marriage
    6. Mutual respect to replace duty of obedience by the woman
  • Link to Musawah’s CEDAW reports on Mali
    1. Musawah made it possible for us to participate in the review and also sent a representative to overview the process and facilitate advocacy with committee members.
    2. The Musawah report also help in the elaboration of the country shadow report as it served as basis for analyze of the certain articles with arguments

Any other relevant regional or international treaty or convention signed by Mali

  • Other treaties
    1. Mali has ratified the Maputo Protocol on July 11th 2003 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child on September 20th 1990.
  • Sustainable Development Goals
    1. Mali signed the Sustainable Development Goals in 2018

National Groups Working on Muslim Family Law

  1. Femmes et Droits Humains
  2. Malian Feminist Movement

Reform Timeline

February 1962

The Code of Marriage and Guardianship was codified


The Code of Marriage was supplemented by an Ordinance of the CMLN


Idea of a recast of the texts governing the Personal Law and a recast of the Family Law

October 1998

Reform of the Family Law had begun

The Government of Mali, through the Ministry for the Advancement of Women, Children and the Family, together with the public and NGOs were consulted in the process.

11 - 13 September 2001

A three-day national synthesis was held in Bamako

The 2002-2006 action plan of the Ministry for the Advancement of Women and the Family  provides for the adoption of a Family Code taking into account the international texts ratified by Mali.


Bill to reform MFL was tabled in Parliament

13 May 2009

Draft Personal and Family Code revised and adopted by the Government in the Council of Ministers was submitted to the National Assembly

3 August 2009 late at night of by the deputies, enhances the status of women. Adopted, by 117 votes in favour, 5 against, and 4 abstentions.

27 August 2009

Approved Code to Undergo Review

Ordered by the President of Mali under pressure from Muslim leaders.

30 December 2011

The Personal and Family Code came into law (No. 2011-087)



This country page was prepared by Djingarey Ibrahim Maiga as a collaboration under the Campaign for Justice in Muslim Family Laws