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Women

Female runners competing in a women's race organized to promote sports activity among teenage girls. The project is supported by Moroccan athlete Nawal al-Moutawakel, the first African and Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal  in the 400-meter hurdles race in 1984. / Photo HH
Female runners competing in a women’s race organized to promote sports activity among teenage girls. The project is supported by Moroccan athlete Nawal al-Moutawakel, the first African and Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal  in the 400-meter hurdles race in 1984. / Photo HH
Article 19 of the Constitution of 2011 states that men and women have equal civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights and that the state will undertake to achieve equality between the sexes and prevent all forms of discrimination. This new Constitution goes much further and is more explicit than the 1996 Constitution that it replaced, which said only that all Moroccan citizens were equal before the law (Article 5) and that men and women enjoyed equal political rights (Article 7). Other constitutional guarantees (e.g., freedom of movement, opinion, expression, and association) were not spelled out in gender terms.

These constitutional provisions guaranteeing the rights of women are a continuation of the provisions of the Mudawana (family-law code), after radical changes were made in 2004 to the original text published in 1957. The Mudawana covers personal-status law (e.g., marriage, divorce, inheritance, child custody, and guardianship), and the revised code was debated and amended in Parliament before it was unanimously approved, rather than simply being enacted by royal decree, as the original 1957 version had been. The revision raised the minimum age of marriage for women from 15 to 18; established divorce by mutual consent; placed tight controls on polygamy and repudiation; gave both husband and wife joint responsibility for the family; and ended a wife’s duty to obey her husband. These changes were hailed by Moroccan human-rights activists because they seemed to expand women’s rights. They were strongly opposed by Islamic conservatives, who saw them as an attack on Islamic precepts, although the code continued to be based on Islamic law (Global Rights).

Moroccan women, whether married or not, face no legal restrictions on travel either outside or inside the country. Similarly, there are no legal restrictions on women pursuing any trade or profession, registering a business, or signing a contract that differ from those imposed on men. However, inheritance rights are not equal between the sexes (International Finance Corporation). Both men and women have rights to paternity and maternity leave, though the period for women is much longer – for both paid leave (98 days) and unpaid leave (90 days) – than it is for men (3 days). The law guarantees that women can return to the same job after maternity leave and forbids employers to dismiss women on the grounds of pregnancy. There are laws mandating equal pay for equal work and forbidding sexual harassment. Retirement is at the same age (60) for men and women. The evidence of women in court is given the same weight as that of men.

At a medical post / Photo HH
At a medical post / Photo HH
Nawal el-Moutawakel, Olympic champion in the 400-metre hurdles at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, US, was the first female African and muslim athlete to win a gold medal
Nawal el-Moutawakel, Olympic champion in the 400-metre hurdles at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, US, was the first female African and muslim athlete to win a gold medal
IOC-members Nawal el-Moutawakel and Brazilian football icon Pelé
IOC-members Nawal el-Moutawakel and Brazilian football icon Pelé

Female representation in Parliament

Bassima Hakkaoui, Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development (PJD) since the 2012 elections
Bassima Hakkaoui, Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development (PJD) since the 2012 elections

The first Constitution approved by referendum in 1962 gave women the right to vote and to run for elective office. When Morocco ratified the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), it registered reservations about the articles on personal status. It was not until 1993 that the first two women were elected to Parliament, and it was not until the elections of 2002 that a significant number of women (35) became members of the Chamber of Representatives, which happened because 30 seats were set aside for women in the national-list voting system. Women won only five seats in the general election in the local-list voting system. Women did poorly in local government elections the following year (127 women out of 22,944 local council members), but in the local and municipal elections in 2009 a quota of 12 percent was set for women, and 3,406 women were elected (out of 20,458 candidates). In the 2011 legislative elections, the number of seats reserved for women was raised to 60 out of 395. In all recent elections, women candidates from the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) did better than those from other parties.

Women have been members of the government as (junior) ministers since 1998. In the government formed after the 2012 elections, only one full minister was a woman, Bassima Hakkaoui, the Minister of Solidarity, Women, the Family, and Social Development; she was a deputy from the PJD (in the preceding government, seven women participated).

Citizenship and international law

According to the Nationality Law (as revised in 2007), a Moroccan woman, married or unmarried can pass her citizenship to her children in the same way as a man can, but she cannot obtain citizenship for a non-Moroccan husband, although a man can do so for a non-Moroccan wife.

Sexual integrity and ‘crimes of honour’

In 2011, a Moroccan government study reported that about 25 percent of Moroccan women have been sexually assaulted at least once. Although rape is punishable by five to ten years’ imprisonment (10 to 20 years’, if the victim is a minor), under the Moroccan Penal Code Article 475, a girl under eighteen who is raped may agree to marry the rapist, in which case the crime cannot be prosecuted unless the marriage is dissolved. This left a loophole in the provisions of the Mudawana code that allowed a sixteen-year-old victim to be forced by a court to marry her attacker in March 2012. She later committed suicide, leading to public protests and a petition signed by half a million people.

Education and work force

In 2010, Moroccan women made up 27 percent of the formal workforce. There are large differences between economic sectors, with women’s labour concentrated in agriculture, which provided 58 percent of female employment (just under 35 percent for men). Industry employed 24 percent of men and 15 percent of women, and services accounted for 42 percent of men and 25 percent of women (2008 figures). In 2006, working women were generally better educated than their male counterparts, as better education tends to be a prerequisite for women entering the labour force: women with tertiary education represented nearly 11 percent of the female workforce, while the figure for men was just under 8 percent. The education workforce is particularly skewed: in 2004, the last year for which comparative figures are available, women made up 45 percent of teachers at the primary level, 33 percent at the secondary level, and 23 percent at the tertiary level. In 2011, women made up 51 percent of primary-school teachers.

These imbalances reflect overall levels of educational access. Total enrolment at the primary level in 2011 was similar for boys and girls (97 percent and 96 percent, respectively), but there was a larger gap in primary completion rates (83 percent for boys and 77 percent for girls in 2009). At the tertiary level, the gap had narrowed again – 14 percent versus 12 percent – an indication that middle-class families attached a similar value to tertiary education for girls as for boys.

In general, the educational position of women is improving. The literacy rates for females aged 15-24 was 72 percent in 2009 (87 percent for males), but in 1982 the equivalent figures were 31 percent and 58 percent.

Another way in which women are participating in the economy is through emigration. At every educational level, more women are emigrating to Europe for work, although emigration was once a largely male practice.