Rabat – Morocco has recently published its preliminary response to the 244 recommendations filed by the United Nations Human Rights Council during Morocco’s 27th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) back in May. The kingdom announced that it had rejected 44 of the recommendations, the majority of which concern women’s rights and individual freedoms.
Child marriage, marital rape, gender equality, equality in inheritance, violence against women, discrimination against children born out of wedlock: Morocco will not be changing its laws on these issues any time soon.
Mustapha Ramid, Minister in charge of Human Rights, will head to Geneva September 21 to present Morocco’s final replies to the UN Council, which is meeting from September 11 to 29 for its 36th session.
However, Morocco’s preliminary response to the UPR’s recommendations published on September 5 are already sparking uproar. For many women’s rights activists, it is extremely worrying.
In its preliminary response, the kingdom has approved 191 of the initial 244 recommendations and stated that 168 others are currently being adopted. However, it rejected 44 of the UPR’s recommendations, 18 of which the kingdom partially dismissed and 26 others which it completely ruled out.
Thirteen of the recommendations that Morocco fully rejected have two words in common: women, and sex.
Violence against women, child marriage, ‘illegal’ children, and gender equality
In a communique released on its official Facebook page, the Moroccan NGO MRA Mobilizing for Rights Associates denounced the Moroccan government decision to fully rejected all the recommendations calling for the abolishment of child marriage and the assurance that the minimum age of marriage is 18 years.
“The kingdom also rejected recommendations to abolish the criminalization of single mothers, to allow full legal recognition of children outside of marriage, to allow DNA testing to ascertain paternity, to withdraw any reference in identity documents which would allow for the identification of children born outside of wedlock, and to repeal all discriminatory legal provisions establishing differences between children born in and out of wedlock, in particular the Family Code,” adds the NGO.
According to the preliminary repsonse published by the Moroccan Executive, the kingdom additionally rejected recommendations to abolish discriminatory provisions related to child custody and guardianship, marriage, inheritance, and polygamy.
The kingdom also completely dismissed recommendations to review all laws and practices that discriminate on the basis of gender and bring them into line with international law and standards, to take steps to further improve the protection of women who are subjected to violence, including by amending the Criminal Code to ensure the criminalization of marital rape, and to decriminalize sexual relations outside of marriage.
Contacted by Morocco World News, MRA has a hard time containing its surprise, but mostly its horror. “In the past UPR in 2012 the government only rejected 8 recommendations, so to reject 44 is substantial,” explain the NGO.
“Before the majority of the recommendations rejected were on sensitive political issues and not women’s rights,” continues the NGO, adding that “to reject such a large number of recommendations on women’s rights topics like non discrimination against unwed mothers and protection of victims of violence is inexplicable and is in contradiction with Morocco’s international commitments.”
“What explanation can there be to not take steps to ensure the rights of unwed mothers and rape victims? Other than to protect male privilege to violate women with impunity,” fires the Moroccan association. “You have to ask who the government wants to protect.”
“It’s certainly a blatant and direct departure from the past – both as concerns women’s rights and Morocco’s openness to accepting UN recommendations,” concluded MRA.
Breaching Morocco’s “Federative Constants”
In its preliminary response, Morocco also delivered an explanation justifying the rejections of these recommendations. For the kingdom, the latter breach Morocco’s federative constants.
“The Kingdom of Morocco confirms that the Constitution has laid the principle of equality among all citizens and created mechanisms to protect it,” reads the document. “Domestic law condemns and punishes perpetrators of violence and discrimination regardless of their causes [and] incentives and the sexual, racial, or religious orientations or identities of the victims.”
However, the text points out the often-religious basis of Moroccan legislation. “Article 1 of the Constitution highlights the special framework of the federative constants of the Moroccan nation, namely, the moderate Muslim religion, national unity with its multiple components, constitutional monarchy and the democratic choice.”
It is in this context that “the Kingdom does not accept these recommendations since they are in contradiction with the above-mentioned federative constants,” including the “repealing some Family Code provisions on guardianship, marriage, and heritage,” explained the Moroccan government in its response to the UN.
For Fouzia Assouli, president of the Federation of the Democratic League of Women’s Rights, Morocco’s decision to reject these recommendations is a major setback for gender equality in the kingdom. “I simply do not understand what image our government wants to present tomorrow in Geneva,” she told Morocco World News.
“Refusing to abolish child marriage and justifying such decision by stating that it contradicts Morocco’s federative constants only means one thing; that we, as a nation, approve of child rape, approve of little girls leaving their classrooms for bedrooms, approve of unconsented little girls being raped in the name of marriage!” Assouli continued.
According to Assouli, Morocco’s justification is unfounded. “What is outraging is that each time, religion is instrumentalized to legitimize and sacralize these gender relations and male dominance that have nothing to do with religion.”
“Islam is the religion of all Moroccans, but today it is confiscated by a small minority, even a small group that uses certain monstrosities such as child marriage to preserve and legitimize its privileges,” stated Assouli, adding that in this case, Article 1 of the constitution was “instrumentalized to give it an erroneous interpretations, while ignoring the fact that the purpose of the constitution and Morocco’s federative constant is to achieve social justice and equity.”
“Is polygamy or child marriage a matter of Islam? Is it one of its pillars?” asked Assouli.“Most of these laws are in themselves unconstitutional ones. To give such explanation, to say that giving children a birth right and protecting young girls and women goes against Morocco’s constitution is a outrageous!”
“What a shame! Using a twisted interpretation of religion and legal texts to justify such vile things is a shame on all of us.”
“Mr. Ramid [Minister in Charge of Human Rights] is using his own ideologies to speak in the name of a whole nation,” accuses Assouli. “He better than anyone should be aware of the serious socioeconomic consequences of child marriage, of what this scourge does to our country! Having 14-year-old divorced mothers who are jobless and illiterate and sometimes even homeless, has he any idea what this does to the development of our country?”
“The same argument Ramid used as a justification can be turned into an accusation against this rejection,” states Assouli. “The moderate Muslim religion do not in anyway justify child marriage, violence done to women, discrimination against children conceived out of wedlock, or any gender based discrimination period. Saying otherwise would stem from a perverse interpretation used to serve certain ideologies that in this case do not represent the will of the Moroccan nation.”
The president of the FLDDF was categoric in her answer: “We do not adhere to this decision that is pulling Morocco centuries backwards, and we refuse that it would be done in our name.”
Morocco World News reached out to Mustapha Ramid and Bassima Hakkaoui, Minister of Solidarity, Women and Family, for comments, but neither were able to respond.