I first came across Moudawana in the Summer of ’09 when I started my blog and a research project related to women and work in Morocco. I didn’t read the full contents of Moudawana at that time, but a summary on a website stated it included new laws that made it easier for women to obtain a divorce and provide clear provisions for child custody among other things. This struck me immediately as somewhat odd, and I didn’t quite understand why a code of its nature would have to be created for such rights of women to exist.
Morocco may call itself a secular society, but the monarch is a Muslim, Muslim holidays are the only religious holiday for which all sectors of business and government shut down, and 99% of the population is classified as Muslim. So, while it may be secular by name, for all intents and purposes it is a Muslim country.
Indeed, Morocco is a fairly progressive country when it comes to women’s rights. Women have the right to obtain free education, work in many professional fields, hold government office, drive a car, and generally move freely about society. However, even with all these opportunities and freedoms, there is still much progress to be made.
And so, the reason the need for a code made an impression on me is because these are rights women have been given to women by Allah over 1400 years ago. And while they may have been restricted before the time of King Mohammed VI, the code is an opportunity to fully include the rights for women indicated by Islamic law. Any Muslim who disagrees with any of the rights granted in Moudawana is either ignorant to or purposely going against the teachings Islam and commandments of the Quran. Presumably, any other opponents are non-Muslims who don’t believe in women having particular rights.
After having read through the code for the purpose of this article, I felt good about the ways in which it secures the rights of women as binding law. Thus, I feel that what women in Morocco need goes beyond Moudawana. It stretches far beyond the major cities where upon first glance an outsider might think women have it good in Morocco.
Education for girls, especially in rural and remote areas, is still severely lacking. Good access to education and some type of enforcement that they attend is needed so that they will learn what there God-given rights are, and will know how and when to demand them.
Girls are often held back from attending school to help with household tasks, and many people in these areas believe that women were created for the sole purpose of taking care of the home. Unfortunately, culture and tradition born of ignorance have created a barrier that continues to keep girls from going to school.
However, Islam encourages education for both men and women regardless of what their eventual role in society might be. With education, girls will know that they can break the norm and change their future. They don’t have to fit into the mold of what cultural ignorance has lined up for them.
The problem is not just that families keep their daughters for attending school. Access to schools in these areas is an issue as well. In many of the more remote villages not only aren’t there enough schools, but they are often too far away for many children to attend. The first focus has to come with providing better access to education including buildings, learning materials, and a way to ensure that all children attend.
When these needs are met, girls will have the access to education that will not only teach them their rights, but that they do not have to be boxed in by cultural norms that don’t value them in the way that Islam requires they be valued. In time, they will teach others, and the idea that Moudawana provides too many rights for women will dissipate.