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Moroccan women hope to overcome “injustices” by reforming family law

Defenders of women's rights in Morocco are pinning their hopes on the new reform of the family law to overcome “the injustices and discrimination” of the text, twenty years after its revision was deemed progressive but inadequate.

In 2004, the kingdom adopted a family code that gave women more rights, made the family the responsibility of both spouses or restricted rejection, underage marriage and polygamy.

At the time, Moroccan feminists had welcomed the text while calling for a “deeper reform adapted to the aspirations of new generations who believe in rights and freedoms,” stressed to AFP Latifa Bouchoua, member of the Federation of Women's Rights Leagues (FLDF). ).

The central demands include equality in inheritance law, guardianship of children – even in the event of divorce – and a complete ban on marriage of minors.

The Islamists continue to block these calls by citing strict interpretations of Islam, the state religion in Morocco.

Despite this resistance, the launch of consultations to amend the family code called “Moudawana” represents an opportunity to correct “legal injustice, discrimination and violence against women in the text or in its application,” said FLDF President Samira Muheya.

This new reform was initiated by King Mohammed VI. who, in a speech last year, called for “overcoming the failures and negative aspects revealed by local experiences”.

A committee formed at the end of September, composed of the justice minister and officials from judicial and religious institutions, is responsible for conducting consultations and preparing a reform project within six months.

At the end of November, the committee had already received proposals from more than a thousand associations, but also from political parties and official institutions.


Marriage of minors is one of the most controversial issues because “it represents a significant aspect of discrimination under the law and is of great concern,” emphasizes Atifa Timjerdine of the Democratic Association of Women of Morocco.

If the “Moudawana” raised the legal marriage age for women to 18 instead of 15, exceptions are possible with exceptional judicial approval.

However, these supposedly exceptional exemptions have reached a very high level, since, according to a study by the public prosecutor's office, “almost 85% of applications submitted between 2011 and 2018 were approved”.

According to women's rights activists, another problematic point, especially in the event of a divorce, is the guardianship of the children that is automatically given to the father.

For the simplest administrative procedures relating to her children, a divorced mother absolutely needs the consent of her ex-spouse.

If they remarry, they run the risk of losing custody of their child from the age of seven if the father requests this. However, he retains this right in the event of remarriage.

Feminist movements also strive for equality in matters of inheritance, with women only entitled to half of men's inheritance according to a strict interpretation of the Koran.

This claim has met with strong resistance from Islamists. As is the ban on polygamy, which was restricted by the first reform but is still possible, especially if the first wife approves it.

According to the High Planning Commission (HCP), this practice accounted for 0.3% of marriage licenses in 2022.

“Change the patriarchal system”

All feminist proposals are based on the principle of equality enshrined in the 2011 Constitution and on an “enlightened jurisprudence” of religious texts, explains Samira Muheya.

For the writer Ahmed Assid, the importance of this reform goes beyond the boundaries of the family and lies in its ability to “change the patriarchal system that is responsible, for example, for widespread unemployment among women.”

Nearly 35% of college-educated women are unemployed, compared to 20.8% of men.

Islamists, for their part, reaffirm their commitment to a traditionalist jurisprudence (Ijtihad in Arabic) of religious texts.

The Justice and Development Party (PJD) is therefore considering changes only within “the Islamic framework”.

For its part, Al Adl Wal Ihssan, the main Islamist movement in Morocco (banned but tolerated), advocates “the supremacy of the Islamic reference system” and rejects “any proposal that contradicts it”.

The king and president of the Supreme Council of Ulemas, an organization with a monopoly on fatwas (religious opinions), is expected to decide on the reform's most contentious issues.