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The Status of Women in Morocco
Social Issues
Leila Raffin


(The writer is a French lady who reverted to Islam about two years ago and has been living in Morocco ever since.)

Some years ago, the Moroccan society was divided in the upper-class that concerns few people (about five percent of the population that possess about 90 percent of the country’s wealth) and the lower-class. Today, things are changing slowly and the middle-class is growing, but the society’s division between the poor and the rich still exists. About 80 percent of the women are illiterate, a very impressive figure nowadays!

Her Contribution to the Economic Life

Women’s behaviour is different depending on their standard of life. On the one hand, they think that modernity resides in clothing and emancipation (in the European and American way). On the other hand, women who have no or poor education are limited to stay at home or work in factories or are employed at ungrateful tasks. In Casablanca, the economic capital, you can see women dressed as Western women with short shirts, tight clothes and also women dressed more traditionally with the jellabah or with Islamic suitable clothes.

Women who have good education are present in every domain (medicine, education, government institutions, banks, etc.). Some of them look like Western women and consider religion a personal concern. Some of them stick to their religion and wear H~ījab, though not always without difficulties. Some companies refuse categorically to hire women with H~ījab. This refusal of H~ījab may come from the Western influence and from the troubles in Algeria, Morocco’s neighbour which has been experiencing hard times for the last eight years with attacks, homicides, manslaughter committed by ‘Islamists’ (but no one knows really who they are). Many women are scared about that and hesitate to wear the H~ījab.

Women with no or very poor education are compelled to work in factories or as handmaids when they live in cities. If they live in the countryside, they are in charge of all the hard tasks, including ploughing fields. They generally wear the H~ījab more by tradition than by religious convictions. Unfortunately, this last category is dominant and changing it is one of the major challenges for the government.

Her Status

Although she is relatively well integrated in the economic life, things are quite different concerning her status in the society. She is often the victim of abuse of Islamic rules that men commit. In Morocco, many domains are based on the Islamic rules, such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.

Concerning marriage, more and more women can choose freely their husbands, but there are still some who go through the father’s choice, especially in the countryside. In all cases, she cannot get married legally without her Mahram’s agreement. And this point is sometimes misused by men to impose their will and to show their authority on women. This gives an argument to the media to criticise Islam and give a negative image of it.

In Morocco, polygamy is allowed but it is not usually practised, Moroccans are mainly monogamous. Some women live in polygamy on their own free will. But others have been forced to accept it because they are financially dependent on their husbands. And, even if they do not want a co-wife, they prefer to live in polygamy rather than having to assume themselves financially. In other cases, they are not informed or consulted by their husband for a second wife.

Concerning divorce, men exercise all the rights and women none, except if she had mentioned some points in the contract of marriage. As most women are illiterate and not informed of their rights, they are generally victims of their ignorance. But the most important problem comes from the right of repudiation given to the husband. In this case, the man can repudiate overnight his wife without informing her. The wife is then informed of her new situation by an official letter. As she does not have the divorced status (but repudiated), she cannot marry another man. It is not rare to see women in a very critical and desperate material situation due to repudiation by the husband. They are repudiated without any financial compensation and left alone to bring up the children. If they don’t work or have no education and qualification, one can easily imagine their situation and distress. The law foresees for a compensation from the husband but in most cases, the husband manages to get it around due to the lack of a solid and truthful administration of justice.

The political sphere is mainly a male one. Even on subjects concerning women only, they are not really consulted and they are not present in debates. She has practically no place in the political life. This is not due to the laws but to the men’s mind-set.

In conclusion, women who possess education are integrated in the society but they are not yet involved in every domain and they have still a small personal status. But women without any education are not integrated in the society and they are really a suffering lot. During the last few months, the government has tried to approve of a plan for women’s integration in the economic development. Since the presentation of this plan, there is a real mobilisation to prevent its adoption. Some points of this plan like priority to education are more than necessary. But other points are debatable because they contradict the Islamic rules on inheritance, divorce and marriage. Instead of changing these rules, maybe it will be more advantageous to take time to educate people according to the spirit of Islam. The women’s status in the Moroccan society will be greatly improved with a real priority on education, not only on her academic education but also on Islamic education. Trying to apply Islamic rules without teaching what Islam is, is like imposing traffic rules in the middle of the jungle.

Courtesy : The Radiance Viewsweekly, Delhi, India

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