By Najoua Bijjir
Offended to the Bone
“I gave my children moldy bread. I did not eat any so that they would have enough.”
Amsterdam – Nabil Ayouch and leading actress Loubna Abidar have received serious death threats as a result of their involvement in the film Much Loved, which portrays the lives of three prostitutes in Marrakesh. The film has been seen as offensive and too pornographic for the religious and cultural values in Morocco. The furious reactions by Moroccan citizens on social media speak volumes to the movie that is provoking them. Individuals have strongly condemned it for “showing Moroccan women in a bad light.”
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Moroccan human rights activist, Khadija Riyadi, stated that, “A vast majority of the sex workers, according to the new statistics, become divorced or widowed before the age of 24, leaving them with few other options to make money.”
When it comes to Much Loved, we hear a lot about the ‘shame’ of the movie, but very little on divorced women who may be at risk of becoming a prostitute. Empirical studies are not needed to show that divorced women often end up at the bottom echelons of society. Punished by social stigma, they undergo a fate they would not have chosen for themselves. Many of these women also take on the heavy task of raising small children completely on their own.
Hypocrisy vs. Moral Values
“They gossip all the time and live off my misery.”
Recently I spoke with three single mothers in the Netherlands about their lives. In the course of talking with them, the idea of writing a book one day about this subject kept entering my mind. The stories of these young women were heart-breaking.
One of the mothers told me that she is distressed due to her financial situation. Out of despair, she said she considered prostitution. “If I cannot feed my children, I am not excluding it,” she said.
Another single mother tells me that she was not allowed by her husband to work while she was married. Now she is struggling to find a job after being out of the workforce for so long as a housewife. Her ex-husband has left her and her children with very few resources and with financial debts. She told me, “I gave my children moldy bread. I did not eat any so that they would have enough.”
Divorced women, especially in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, face many challenges. Not only does their economic situation change for the worse, but many women are also suddenly confronted with “a changed social environment.” One of the mothers added, “When I was married, I used to visit everybody. I helped as many people as I could. After my divorce, nobody visited us, and the children and I are not invited anywhere anymore—just because I lost the status of being a married woman.”
Divorced Women — Not Much Loved
As if their misery is not enough, they are confronted by social stigmas adding more burdens to their already challenging lives. One of the single moms told me, “People doubt whether I am still a Muslim. They gossip constantly about me and spread slander. Some of these people work as volunteers at the mosque. No one within the community, nor the mosque, has ever knocked on my door to ask how we are coping.”
Divorced women in the MENA region are often self-supporting. They face the realities of a hard life with little support or even tolerance from society. What do communities, which claim to have high moral values, have to offer them: Gossip and denigration. They are made to feel unwanted. They are given the cold shoulder and rejected with attitudes that are hard as nails and just as hypocritical. “Help you? No thank you! Suit yourself! But if we see something we do not like, we are more then happy to condemn you!” is the underlying refrain.
Simply because such women are no longer married does not mean that they lack any “financial value” and are therefore “worthless.”
Yet when it comes to divorced women, orphans, the elderly, the needy, and the poor, the moral foundation upon which people base their condemnation of films such as Much Loved suddenly seems to disappear. It blows away like smoke. But the reality is that the disadvantaged are within our network, they are our neighbors and with us in our own communities.
Individuals across the globe (male, female, young, old) seem to have plenty of time, energy, loads of creativity and the right tools to make their passionate voices heard on social media. But this often only applies when it concerns a film or a statement someone makes.
Life is like a film that nobody has seen but everyone wants to comment on. Everybody has an opinion on divorced women, but nobody knows the details of their reality. People should consider the hypocrisy of their indignation and moral righteousness with respect to one aspect of life while completely disregarding their moral values with respect to another.
Edited by Elisabeth Myers
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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