A ruling Islamic party and the general perception of Morocco as a predominantly conservative suggest caution as to the prospects of CNDH’s radical measures.
Rabat – The National Council for the Defense of Human Rights (CNDH), Morocco’s leading authority on human rights-linked issues, has picked its side in the ongoing debate between conservative and progressive Moroccans on whether the country’s penal code needs revamping.
In recommendations published in a recent memorandum, the CNDH made the point that a number of legal provisions as contained in the Moroccan penal code are no longer reflective of the profound societal changes the North African kingdom has witnessed.
According to the memorandum, some articles need to be either amended or downright dismissed to make the whole penal code more compatible with contemporary Morocco.
Among the changes CNDH proposed are, quite predictably, all the articles that deal with “public prudishness” and individual liberties.
As the CNDH propositions come on the heels of an surging, hot debate on the criminalization of practices like out of wedlock sex, abortion, and a host of other individual liberties that have to do with “prudishness and public decency,” the proposed texts advocate for the dismissal of articles that criminalize what CNDH, siding with progressive Moroccans, suggested are foundational individual freedoms.
Also concerned by the change is the controversial Article 22 of the current penal code.
That article criminalizes breaking fast or eating in public during Ramadan. For CNDH, however, that idea does not dovetail with an increasingly diverse, multi-religious Morocco—even though Islam remains by far the predominant religion. Similarly, the CNDH is also calling for amending or discarding of Article 220, which criminalizes religious proselytism and conversion from Islam to another religion.
The radical proposals come months after King Mohammed VI appointed a heavily left-leaning CNDH leadership, with the evidently professed aim of making Morocco’s volatile, still-to-mature democracy more consolidated, full-throated.
But with a ruling Islamic party and the general perception of Morocco as a predominantly conservative country despite concerted efforts at socio-political reforms more in line with emerging and regionally assertive Morocco, it remains to be seen how society at large will receive these radical CNDH proposals.
Most recently, a law on the adoption of French as the primary instruction language in Moroccan schools provoked great ire in conservative circles.
Critics of the law said those who support it are “cultural cowards” bent on attacking Morocco’s “identify and pride” as a Muslim country. To adopt French at the expense of Arabic, they said, was akin to “culturally and socially surrendering” to France and French culture.