Morocco's family code, 5 years later

It's time for additional reforms  
by Hakima Fassi-Fihri

Rabat- Morocco was praised for significant progress in the field of women's rights, particularly for revising its 1958 family code – the "Moudawana". This reform was the result of many years of work between academics, theologians, activists and legal experts.
Five years later, it's time to assess whether this praise was warranted.

The 2004 reform was made in a spirit of equity between men and women within the family unit, with the aim of protecting children's interests while respecting the balance between tradition and modernity in a country that is highly attached to its family-based identity.

For example, a young Moroccan woman can now marry freely without permission from her father. The family is also considered the joint responsibility of both spouses and not solely the husband's as before.

Additionally, polygamy – which was a husband's absolute right under the previous code – became subject to the judge's approval and, above all, is allowable only under strict legal conditions which make the practice almost impossible.

The growth in the number of female family judges, along with a clear rejuvenation of the magistracy, are also part of the noteworthy changes resulting from the 2004 reform.

However, additional change is still needed.

Indeed, if at its early stages the Moudawana had a dissuasive effect on polygamy and marriage involving minors, people quickly realised that it was not difficult to get dispensations from judges.

In fact, although the new code stipulates that the legal age for marriage is 18, today in Morocco 10 percent of marriages involve minors. There was a dramatic increase (over 50 percent between 2006 and 2007) in marriages involving youth, especially in rural areas.

In addition to the necessity to properly enforce 2004 reforms, notably by training judges to declare verdicts in line with the new laws, new reforms are still needed to close the gap in gender equity.

For example, when it comes to inheritance and succession, it is neither sensible nor appropriate in cases of female heirs to force them to share their portion with an uncle or male cousin.

Morocco would benefit from intensifying the debate, perhaps with a view to a new Moudawana reform.

Imagining a reversal of gender roles

by Zakia Tahir

Casablanca, Morocco - Five years after the 2004 family code reform, Moroccans are still debating the identity of the Moroccan family. "Nawal", a young Moroccan woman, is proud of these reforms. For her, like for many Moroccan women, it is a victory. But other Moroccan women, such as "Ilham", do not understand much about it. And "Najat" is opposed to it because she has been told it does not comply with God's will. Female opinion is divided.

"Rachid", a young Moroccan male, refuses to get married because he's heard that in the event of divorce he would have to divide his assets with his wife. And the "Mustafas" of Morocco feel they've lost their dignity since the family is now under the shared responsibility of both husband and wife.

These diverse opinions are reflected in the 2008 film, Number One, so named because its main character is a male manager – or the "Number One" – of a clothing factory operated by 50 female workers. The Moudawana is a recurring theme throughout the film, which portrays the discussion of gender equality in Morocco in a new light.

Thousands of women watched this film: among them, women who, for lack of means or interest, had never been to the cinema before. They came because other women told them that it was about them, about their everyday lives.

Many women identified with the situations pictured in the film. They recognised their husbands, their cousins, their bosses. Men's perspectives too were shattered. One man told me after watching: "I realised I was a male chauvinist too when I saw the film." Another said, "I want my daughters to see this film so that they will never accept what they think is their fate."

Five years after the Moudawana, Number One is using humour and entertainment to open discussions and challenge traditional views of male and female roles in Moroccan society.

 Zakia Tahiri writes and directs films with her husband, Ahmed Bouchaala. Hakima Fassi-Fihri is a research professor of business contract law in Rabat and an active member of the women's networks, Women's Tribune and Terrafemina. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Comments (4)  

0 #1 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Morocco's family code, 5 years laterhmimarmad 2009-05-05 12:49
To make the story short, Moudawana should have come with educating people with some sort of relentless awareness campaign. In Urban areas, the Moudawana was a good thing and Marriages according to official numbers have increased and the number of divorces decreased. Up to you to believe if this is true. As you know anything official, you have to take it with a grain of salt.
Here is what's concerning to me: Rachid is already thinking about divorce without ever being married and especially the like mustafa who think that he will be less of a man if a woman can divorce him. Why can't Mustapha see himself more of man because he respected a woman's wish not to be with him?
Why is Rachid is so greedy that he is thinking of materialistic things first as if a woman is an object that he has sole possession of.
The answer to these questions if I may is : Ignorance , culture, and tradition.
We came for a macho culture where the man should have the ultimate decision because at the time the man was the bread winner and the provider, now women do work and do provide and do help their family even more than males and it is only normal that they too should have a say.
M6 said it best " society cannot move forward when half of its members is lagging behind and denied "
0 #2 Do they have men's right in Morocco let alone women's right???jazuk 2009-05-12 05:43
What women's right??? these are useless, used and abused slogans in our country.....The re are thousands if not millions of men in Morocco who fought and lost their assets, their livelihoods and sometimes their lives, yet they are not recognised neither by Moroccans or by the government. They still waiting for their rights, waiting and hoping that one day, they would be able to educate and feed their children, one day that they will be granted their rights and they will be recognised, one day that those orphaned kids will be able to get out of poverty and live decent human life. The irony is that there are others who never held a revolver or revolvers, let alone buy them, smuggle them through the Atlas mountains and fight in the resistance movements with other comrades to free Morocco from the colonialists occupiers, and guess what?, those jerks have been recognided by the government as resistants while the real fighters have been denied their do men have right before we start talking about women's right in Morocco??? we have to stop diluding ourselves and we start living our reality. Our reality is there are NO HUMAN RIGHTS in Morocco!
On another note, just to reply to the previous writer's comment....I have never hear in Morocco that a man can divorce his wife as a very close relative to mine has been trying to divorce her husband for the last 10 years without any success, bearing in mind that she has been living with her parents and working for her kids for the last 10 years without a penny from this so-called husband (by name). The judge even told that her husband may take children from her and may ask for obedience (Taaa).... what a joke!
human rights, men's rights and women's right are all one big joke in Morocco!
Moroccan Patriot
0 #3 The truthMoroccan Patriot 2009-05-13 07:14
People are always talking about how Education does this... and education does that, but the 500 pound gorilla in the room is Enforcement. You can pass all of the well intentioned laws that you want, but without accountability, transparency and economic opportunities, they amount in value to nothing more than scribbles someone made on toilet paper to convince EU and US aid agencies to continue cutting checks to corrupt officials and bloated NGO's.

Women's issues will not be resolved by disenfranchisin g the men. Women's issues will only improve once the other ills of society are challenged.

I see girls coming to school everyday imitating what they see on MBC4, wearing tongue piercings and short skirts, gone are the days when girls wore traditional Djallaba's and unlike Egypt, and other north african countries, most Moroccan girls do not wear headscarves and instead choose to wear jeans. Cheating is the norm in the classroom. These same students who dress vulgarly and view cheating as the natural way of things will grow up to contribute to the rampant corruption that infects our society and immoral behaviour that plagues and is the downfall of many a marriage.

We are already in a state where women cannot find suitable husbands because Men would rather find a working woman to support them than take on their "traditional" responsibilitie s. "AL RAJULA" is dead, and the Mudawana with all of its seemingly altruistic intentions is contributing to the decay and eventual decline of Morality and Islam in Morocco.
0 #4 the more important question !jamila 2012-03-28 19:40
the more important question 4 me does this new code it's stand up with the women or with the men? because sometimes i see the contrary

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