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The Moroccan King Muhammad VI has led the way to reform for women’s rights in Morocco which in turn has inspired neighboring North African governments to do the same.


From allotting equal rights to both husband and wife in marriage, making divorce more accessible, and paving the way for women to hold at least 30 seats in Parliament (As a comparison, today women in Morocco’s parliament constitute about 11% of the seats, whereas in the US women have about 14% of the seats.) King Muhammad is seen by many as a revolutionary leader in the Middle East and North African region for women’s issues.


In the previous family code, men had all the rights in marriage. Now both spouses have equal authority in the family. Below is a side by side comparison of the changes the new family code presents women in Morocco.

In the old family code:

  • Women could get married at age 15.
  • Men could verbally divorce their wives at any time, and their decision would be legally binding- leaving many women out on the streets.
  • Male guardians, usually the woman’s father would decide the woman’s fate as a walli.
  • Polygamy was permitted, with or without the consent of the previous wives


In the new family code:

  • Women can get married at age 18
  • Divorce must be settled in court. Women now have the right to divorce their husbands as well – even on the basis of failure to observe any of the conditions in the marriage contract, or if he harmed his wife through lack of financial support, abstinence, violence, or any other wrongful deed
  • Addressing the problem of homeless women, the new code permits the person who wins custody of the children, the rights to the house.
  • Divorce cannot be registered until all money owed to the wife and the children has been paid in full by the husband.
  • The granddaughter and the grandson on the mother's side have the right to inherit from their grandfather, as part of the compulsory legacy, just like the son's children.


In the government seats are reserved for women on election lists in order to ensure that they constitute 30 out of the 325 members of the bicameral parliament's Chamber of Representatives. The 2002 elections brought 35 women members to Parliament, increasing Morocco's ranking in Africa from one of the last to among the first in terms of women's political participation.


The National Democratic Institute, (NDI) worked with the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women (ADFM) and the Seattle-based Center for Women and Democracy to train more than 120 potential candidates in campaign techniques prior to the 2002 legislative elections in Morocco. The program focused on how to run a competitive campaign and target women voters to ensure that women's concerns are reflected in national politics. Through those elections, the number of women holding seats in Parliament leapt from just two to 35, one-third of whom participated in NDI's training programs.


NDI continues to support pioneering women in politics by offering technical assistance, hosting seminars and workshops and promoting networking for women MPs. Recently, the Institute organized an intensive set of training-of-trainers modules on public speaking for senior women representatives from 10 major political parties. Currently, NDI is working with several members of Parliament and the women's committee of the Francophone Parliamentary Association in creating a parliamentary women's caucus and promoting cooperative mechanisms that will increase women's voice in government.




In May, 2006 Morocco appointed 50 women as state preachers, as part of the government’s effort to promote moderate Islam. The women, called “Mourchidats” will be able to give basic religious instruction in mosques; however they do not lead prayer which is reserved for men religious leaders. These women will also be able to support to people in prisons, schools and hospitals.



Thirty-five women serve as ulemas on regional religious committees, doing much the same work that Kebbaj does at the national level, such as resolving debates.

source: (Abend & Pingree, 2006)


Despite the positive changes in the family code, the government and religeous studies, there are several factors that indicate that Morocco has a long way to go. For example, literacy rates between women and men in Morocco are uneven: Based on a 2004 consensus, 65.7% of males ages 15 and over can read and write, whereas 39.6% of women can read and write. Moreover, implementing compulsory education in the rural areas, particularly for girls, continues to be a monumental task for the authorities.
(Abend & Pingree, 2006)
Other socio-economic factors such as the growth rate reflect better women's health and family planning in Morocco: Twenty-seven percent of all women aged 15 and over were economically active during 1995-2002, constituting 26% of all non-agricultural wage earners. Particularly noteworthy has been the rapid drop of Morocco's population growth rate - from a steady 3% annual rate in the 1960s and 1970s, to 1.3% at present. Translated into family size, the average Moroccan woman now bears approximately three children in her lifetime, a figure less than half of the one 30 years ago. The average marrying age for Moroccan urban women is now 25-26, up from 17 in earlier decades. (Abend & Pingree, 2006)
Other factors such as child labor continue to plague the country: Morocco has one of the highest rates of child labor in the Middle East and North Africa, and one of the lowest rates of school attendance for working children outside of sub-Saharan Africa. According to a 2004 study of child labor in Morocco by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Bank, child domestic workers are “perhaps the most vulnerable group of urban child workers,” and urban child labor poses the greatest dangers to children’s health and well-being. Yet the government has given little emphasis to combating the worst forms of child domestic labor. Few programs exist to prevent children from entering domestic labor or facilitate their rehabilitation and family reintegration, and child domestics with abusive employers have little effective legal or other recourse. The scope of Morocco’s Labor Code excludes domestic workers, and labor inspectors lack the authority to enter private homes to investigate violations of the general prohibition on the employment of children under fifteen. Young and often illiterate, child domestics frequently lack the skills and the opportunities to seek help in leaving abusive workplaces.



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