By Julia Randa
By Julia Randa
Morocco World News
Paris, March 23, 2013
What does it mean to be Muslim and feminist at the same time? Is it a legitimate and correct designation nowadays and precisely speaking about Muslim Arab societies? Let’s have a look at the case of Morocco.
I found it relevant to shed light on this subject as the status of women affects everyone in an area of increasing religious obscurantism that promotes radical values and segregates the voiceless, sows intimidation all over the world, and most of all, conveys the idea of religion as a nightmare in terms of women’s issues. It’s not an easy task to answer the questions asked because while searching for the solution, great factors are at stake. .
I) “Paradise Beneath Her Feet … Hell above it”
The concept of feminism, a priori inspired by well-known modern Western philosophy, implies an activist ethos supporting women’s rights. This requires a certain awareness that disregards social prejudices and an atypical profile of traditions and customs that do not comply with “the standards” set by patriarchal ideologies.
In Morocco, we can describe three groups of women: oppressed women, women standing against this oppression and those who choose to remain passive in its wake.
Oppressed women constitute the majority in the kingdom. The cliché example I’d like to begin with is unfortunately the most frequent one: women who are the victims of violence and especially physical conjugal violence leading to them being driven out from their homes. The police? They will gently advise the wife to be taken back to her gentle husband. And the kids? They are traumatized.
Unfortunately there is no psychiatric management at this level for that would be a luxury. In order to support their kids’ needs, most mothers end up in miserable living conditions such as harsh laborious housework or the sex trade. For some, their husbands will happily remarry, for some others their kids become trapped in drugs and street violence in their absence.
When mothers dare to choose divorce, it is more likely for the pension benefit called the “Nafaka”. Please understand that these cases are not exceptional at all in Morocco—one has only to go and pay a visit to one of the very few existing women’s centers like the Anajda Center in Rabat to witness them. What about the law? The law punishes any mediator who facilitates the escape of women from their homes for complicity in kidnapping and sequestration reasons. Ultimately, it means that whatever happens, a woman remains at the mercy of her husband’s “good” will which can include forcing her out of her home…what a great paradox!
The truth is that only the work of NGOs put in place solid structures and tools such as juridical assistance or housing for these types of victims and then guess what? The government generously decides to turn a blind eye to these kinds of infractions to its own laws. Our government is then the embodiment of indulgence when it comfortably allows associations to do their job for them.
Among the thorny issues delegated to the trial judge’s discretion is the question of pension: the renowned Nafaka. To date, pension sums granted to divorced women with children are not subject to any scale and do not take into account either the husband’s income or the preservation of the family’s previous economic situation.
The fact is the Nafaka is insufficient and inadequate. Consequently, many Moroccan feminists wonder: “why not use the fund set aside by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs that is supposed to help people in need or that of any other ministry”. In addition, we should mention that most of the victims of violence in Morocco are illiterate and most illiterate individuals are women (60%).
This is not surprising as misery, education, violence and poverty are all deeply linked. We may also notice that rural women suffer higher levels of illiteracy than women in the cities. Persisting constraints are: the illiteracy of mothers, geographical remoteness, and poverty and livelihood insecurity, which force children into work and lead to the early marriage of girls.
If we try to review the events that led to this juncture, we may remark that the coexistence of both archaic and modern systems in Morocco creates a kind of duality and results in ambiguities at the level of legislative consistency. For a long time, Moroccan legislators have been unable to overturn immutable principles expressed by the allegedly Islamic law concerning gender issues. Post-independence political tensions between the monarchy and the Nationalist Movement didn’t allow the first feminists of the period, such as “Akhawat Safa,” to assert the priority of their claims because the question of women’s rights was considered as secondary.
That was several years before women’s rights associations began emerging in Morocco as well as solid feminist movements like the “Moroccan Association of Human Rights,” “The Union of Women’s Action,” and “L’Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc” thanks to the reactivation of activity of opposition political parties in the 70s. The groups turned private issues into public and political concern and denounced the alarming realities provoked by the conservatives, not to mention the personal statues.
In light of this, Morocco has ratified the CEDAW (Convention of Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women), a kind of bill of rights for women adopted in 1979 in the UN General Assembly. The government has since then undertaken measures to harmonize its national laws with this convention through legislative amendments such as The Dahir of September 10, 1993..
Even so, it took ten years to make a veritable historical and political revolution, and thanks is exclusively due to the feminists’ campaigns. I’m referring to the promulgation of the new Family Code in October 2003 and its entry into force on February 4, 2004. Numerous power relationships were finally raised such as polygamy, problems related to children’s custody, repudiation, male superiority and control over women (qiwamah), women’s exclusion from educational and religious fields, whether a man can beat his wife, trivialization of sexual harassment in public and work spheres, inheritance, abortion, contempt for women’s roles inside the family, male-female parity, the situation of single and unmarried mothers, child labor… Finally! But are we supposed to call this a happy ending?
Edited by Sarah Alaoui
To Be Continued …
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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