Brussels must allow marriage between uncle and his niece-in-law, court rules

Brussels must allow marriage between uncle and his niece-in-law, court rules
In the court of appeal, the couple received permission to marry. Credit: Pexels

The City of Brussels has to allow a marriage between Maïmoun Mjoti (67) and the niece (48) of his deceased wife, after it had previously been refused due to suspicions of a forced marriage.

Mjoti’s wife died in April 2015 due to the consequences of cancer. “But on her deathbed, she asked me to marry again, preferably with her niece Fatima-Zohra Berdouni, who is her brother’s daughter,” said Mjoti, reports RTBF. “That made sense. I saw Fatima-Zohra grow up. She knows my children, and our family knows each other. One of my brothers already married one of her sisters,” he added.

In early 2016, Mjoti and Berdouni sent in their declaration of marriage to the city, but received a message that it was refused four months later. Due to the age gap and the fact that Berdouni moved from Morocco to Belgium, the Brussels public prosecutor’s office suspected this was an arranged marriage, and refused to go through with it.

The couple took the case to the Brussels family court, but it ruled that Berdouni was only marrying to get a residence permit. “But I refused to give up on our love story. We have experienced so many beautiful moments together with our families and we have known each other for so long,” said Mjoti.

In the Court of Appeal, the judged overturned the previous verdict, and the couple received permission to marry. “The judge stigmatised the desired marriage because of its familial context, and even called it ‘unhealthy’. But the Belgian law does not prohibit marriage between in-laws. This is part of traditions and culture, there is no need to judge them for it,” the verdict said, reports BX1.

“This is a great victory for us. I have thought a lot about my aunt’s last wish,” said Berdouni, reports Bruzz. “It is normal for the Belgian state to fight against forced marriages, but it did hurt us that they did not believe us. Let our story be a source of inspiration for everyone who wants to get married,” she added.

The couple married in the City of Brussels on 4 May 2019.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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