In terms of equality between girls and women, Morocco has some catching up to do in a global comparison. In the gender ranking of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Morocco regularly brings up the rear (currently 143rd out of 149). The legal discrimination against Moroccan girls and women as well as the low level of participation in the labor market and in the economy are decisive for the placement. In the national average, only 22 percent of women of working age are employed: in the cities it is even less. A 2015 report by the national human rights institute CNDH confirms these trends.
But there are also positive developments. In 2018, a law to protect women from sexual violence and harassment was passed. The number of women who dare to report rape and assault to the police has increased. The fact that gender roles are changing in the younger generation is proven by a report published in 2017 by the UN organization “UN Women” on ideas about masculinity in the MENA region, as well as a gender-specific analysis of the protest movement “February 20” (founded in 2011).
With the new constitution of July 2011, equality between men and women became a national goal. A national gender strategy has been in place since 2007, and the form of a gender action plan is continuously updated. In 2009, some political parties passed an ethics charter that includes the establishment of quotas for women at party level.
A quota for women has been in force for the composition of the national parliament since 2007. As a result, the number of women in the Moroccan parliament has risen from two to over 80, ie a good 20 percent. At the municipal level, the proportion is even 30 percent. In the most recent local elections in 2015, twice as many women were elected to city councils as before (more than 6600). Other important steps on the way to formal equality were the lifting of all reservations regarding the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the adoption of the optional protocol of the UN Anti-Discrimination Convention, CEDAW. Morocco was the first country in the MENA region to take this step. The efforts of the Moroccan state in the fight against gender-based violence should also be emphasized.
More rights on paper
According to internetsailors, Moroccan family law (mudawwana), which strongly discriminates against women and girls, had been in force in its old form since 1957. Since the late 1950’s, left and secular political forces have repeatedly called for the abolition of the mudawwana or for reforms. A 2010 report by Freedom House sheds light on this period, among other things.
However, despite protests, King Hassan II (1961-1999) had only allowed tiny cosmetic changes. Since the late 1990’s, and especially since 2000, the Moroccan women’s movement has been putting increasing pressure on the misogynist laws. The reform of civil status law (family law reform) in 2004 improved the legal situation of girls and women, at least on paper, especially in the following areas:
- Abolition of the principle: “Obedience in exchange for provision”, instead women and men are equally responsible for the family
- Introduction of judicial divorce
- Abolition of unilateral repudiation by the husband, introduction of the principle of disruption, relatively extensive equality between men and women in divorce law.
- Abolition of the compulsory marital guardianship. A woman of marital age can sign the marriage contract herself if she so wishes. The option of engaging a male guardian (wali) remains, however.
Further improvements to family law have been made since 2004. But despite these improvements, women and men in Morocco are still a long way from real legal and social equality. Patriarchal attitudes and discriminatory behavior continue to dominate in Moroccan society. Many of the ambitious legal reforms have only been partially implemented so far. A “permanent construction site” is the Islamic inheritance law, which puts women and girls at a severe disadvantage – although many women would be helped if they could at least assert their religiously based rights. Sometimes the practice prevails to completely exclude women and girls from inheritance. However, women no longer put up with this consistently and they achieve partial success, as in summer 2018. The theologian Asma Lamrabet however, it lost its position in the Association of Legal Scholars after it had campaigned for a reorganization of Islamic inheritance law.
In recent years, several prominent cultural figures from Morocco have publicly declared their homosexuality, including the writers Abdellah Taia and Hicham Tahir as well as Rachid O. The topic is now being reported in Moroccan media. But people with an orientation deviating from the heterosexual norm are still threatened in many ways. Homosexuality is still prohibited as a criminal offense. People with a lesbian, gay, bisexual orientation or transgender and intersexual people in Morocco suffer from both repressive legal provisions and social ostracism. There have been more acts of violence in recent years especially against male homosexuals, as well as public opinion against people with deviating sexual orientation, e.g. in social media. Gays and lesbians are “outed” against their will, for example in social media, and thus practically pilloried. Often they have to change their place of residence as a result, sometimes also their work or the whole group of friends. While extramarital heterosexual relationships were increasingly decriminalized, Moroccan lawmakers increased the penalties for gays and lesbians. Civil society groups such as Aswat, who campaign for the human rights of gays, lesbians and BTI, have to expect prosecution and therefore keep themselves very secretive in public.