Ups and Downs of the Moroccan Family Code

In this interesting essay, Hind reviews the achievements and analyses the failures of the Moroccan family code, six years after its implementation.


Writer, blogger and journalist 19 comments

Monday, March 29th, 2010

The most important changes brought by the Moroccan new Family Code or Moudawana, are the protection of women’s rights, its support for gender equality and children’s rights. However, although it has been implemented for several years now, the Family Code in Morocco is still being violated and contravened. The existence of legal loopholes still allows some practices to persist, such as the marriages under the legal age of 18. This particular practice has several social and cultural roots, the most important of which is the Al-Fatiha Marriage (or the traditional religious marriage, attended only by the male members of both families and witnesses, without the provision of a formal contract, and where the recitation of the first chapter of the Quran, the Al-Fatiha, suffices for the union to be considered legitimate) which is spread in the rural areas of Morocco.

The need for an alimony fund for the protection of the family:

The new Code allows, among other things, for an acceleration of the maintenance procedure or alimony in case of divorce. This is a positive and important point, for it guaranties the divorced wife and her children the right for a decent living. But for some reason, and 6 years after the implementation of the Moudawana, the law has not yet been backed by an alimony fund that is much needed. -a body that would have helped solve many of the social problems that aroused from the real-life implementation of the new law. Morocco can learn a lot from the experiences of other Arab countries such as Egypt,Tunisia and Palestine who have already put in place a fund-based alimony system.

There’s a flip side to this reform however. The divorce rates have been soaring recently, especially among the most empoverished and vulnerable communities in the society, most probably for economic reasons. Also, in case of divorce, the law states clearly that it is the husband’s responsability to provide for the maintenance of his former wife and children, and to do so whithin 30 days or face imprisonement. After two years of divorce, and even if the husband has been spending for the household whatever money he could afford, the former wife, especially when there is a child, would still be able to sue her former husband and force him into paying nearly 30 thousand dirhams, (3000 Euros, 4000 USD). There are plenty of intricate cases like these before the courts today. Although these amounts might sound fair and reasonable, they are unaffordable in most cases given the current unstable work environment and the high rates of unemployement in this country. Even the average civil servant wouldn’t dream of affording to pay such amounts. Even the ordinary, stable and happy family wouldn’t spend that amount of money in such a short time, as is the case of most of the Moroccan population. According to Anaruz [Ar, Fr], a Moroccan national center for listening and orientation for women victims of violence, the percentage of men who fail to willingly pay their maintenance duty is as high as 57.9%.

One story has attracted my attention recently. It was aired on national radio. It’s a story of a young man suffering from diabetes, with an amputated leg, so poor that he can’t afford the price of food, let alone to pay for his Insulin, who lived on charity and yet who has been sentenced by a court to pay thousands of Dirhams to his former wife or face imprisonment. Cases like these are becoming very common unfortunately.

The Moudawana has thus created new social problems and has led to the dispersion of the Moroccan family. For this reason it has become necessary to establish an alimony fund to put an end to the problems faced by so many families, especially the most impoverished, and to ensure the rights of divorced women and their children. The Moroccan society and family are not benefiting from the perpetuation of the current system whereby men who can’t pay the maintenance duties arel led to jail. It’s a system that generates hatred, violence and domestic crimes, not to mention delinquency and its devastating effects on children’s mental health.

The absence of a law to protect women from violence:

The phenomenon of violence against women has unfortunately increased in the Moroccan society in recent years. Frightening figures show that dozens of women commit suicide every year. Out of wedlock pregnancy forces women to undergo clandestine abortions from fear of retribution, while others live with permanent disabilities due to domestic violence. The Family Code did not touch on these problems and there are plenty of legal voids in this field. Domestic violence against women doesn’t come necessarily from the husband. It can be perpetrated by the father, the brother, the relative, the employer. Also, violence is not only physical or verbal or psychological or economic, it can be sexual. Because of the ravaging effects sexual violence has on women’s psychology, it is considered rape when carried out by the husband, as recognized by the laws in many developed democracies around the world. Any sexual relationship not based on mutual consent, that is against the wishes of the wife or forced under any form of threat is rape indeed. Something Moroccan women know little about. New laws must be introduced to halt such widespread practices. Most women don’t denounce their violent husbands however or report on sexual violence either for social reasons or because they consider those practices to be their partner’s right. There are, therefore, very few reliable statistics on that matter.

According to a report [Fr] by the National Network for Listening and Legal Assistance to WomenVictims of Violence (Anaruz), published on March this year, economic and physical violence are the most prevalent (37.6% and 32.7% respectively). Sexual violence comes in third place with 10.7%, followed by judicial (sic) and psychological violence with 10.1% and 8.8% respectively. This violence occurs mainly in a marital context (87%) and at home (83.9%). The remaining forms of violence against women cataloged by the report are social (5.5%), familial (4.1%) and violence outside of wedlock (3, 4%). Violence is often chronic (84.1%) and repeated (85.9%).

The new family code was meant to ensure the stability of the Moroccan family, while guarantying equality before the law so that both genders can enjoy full citizenship. But legal loopholes, aspects of the cultural heritage and the complexity of the legal procedures have pulled back the aspirations of Moroccan society for an advanced and democratic social system. That’s why the civil society and the government, should work together and figure out new laws to help accompany the changes occurring in the society and, more importantly, to raise awareness and educate citizens. This education should start at school. It can also be implemented through the creation of training courses for workers, employees, farmers and others, and though the use of different media outlets, so that every citizen knows her/his rights and duties. Laws alone won’t change the society. We need to spread knowledge and awareness and reach those living in the countryside and the rural areas and who are unaware of the existence of a new family code, which is afflicting. Also it is important to simplify laws and make them accessible to all people. This is the role of the legislators who must examine the social impacts of laws before they enact them. And, for the sake of democracy, why not take advantage of the Web to conduct informal polls and get feedback from the people who after all should have a say on laws that concern them.

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Translated by Hisham from غياب وثغرات قانونية بمدونة الأسرة المغربية

Posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010

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19 comments on “Ups and Downs of the Moroccan Family Code”

  1. Hi Hind

    I read your article with great interest, and, in many ways, I think we agree in the broad sets of conclusions. I have 2 questions though :
    – do you really think the 2003 Moudouwana was for improving Women’s rights ?
    – why would you assume divorce and new social problems as negative issues ?
    Looking forward for your reply


  2. Agreed – the ills of Moroccan society cannot be fixed by a new code of family law! And really, with such an incredible number of Moroccans living in unfortunate or underprivileged circumstances, how on earth do most Moroccans stand to benefit from these laws? I mean, there are people sleeping under pieces of cardboard in my Moroccan “suburban” neighborhood, and yet the king has wealth coming out the gazoo? Clearly there are more important things to fix in Morocco. Let’s try to get the majority up to a decent standard of living. Let’s try to elevate the standard of public education, and its availability. Let’s try to get the government to help support poor rural families so that they consider allowing their daughters to go to school rather than send them off to be maids. Let’s try to give high school students hope that there is a promising future for themselves without having to “escape” to another country. I s it not pathetic that an uneducated Moroccan can go to Italy or Spain or the US, work as a waiter, and have money to spare to send home to his family, while a young Moroccan with a four-year university degree cannot find work that pays enough to support him in marriage? Where are the opportunities within the kingdom????

    • @ Amina : I must re-state my point : The Moudouwana was part of a political move, that’s what I wanted to discuss about.
      Now, there are indeed priorities in improving standards of living for the common people, that’s a token. Figures show that roughly 65% of the GDP is produced by women. The least thing to do is to grant women equal rights, and in some ways, the Moudouwana failed to do so.

      In essence, I understand your point : economic conditions must be improved in order to make sure people enjoy their rights. I partly agree on this. However, before standards of living to be improved, the basic thing to do is to treat Moroccans as citizens with dignity, which leads necessarily to a deep change in the law- and ultimately, the constitution- of the land. Would you be happy with that?

  3. Of course I agree that citizens should be treated with dignity. But I’m not sure I agree that the dignity should precede the standard of living and education. And I’m not confident that dignity can be restored with the current monarchy. Good grief, is there any dignity in watching people line up to greet the king, bending like chickens to peck a kiss on his hand as he pulls it distastefully away? Is there any dignity when a man is told to sign a government paper with an “x” because the assumption is he’s bearded = he’s a religious zealot = he’s illiterate.

    So I’d much rather see the needs of the disadvantaged addressed before trying to instill a vague concept of dignity. Dignity will be achieved naturally when people feel enabled rather than trapped in dismal situations which the government clearly has money to fix. I mean, did Morocco really need to contract $841.9 million with Lockheed Martin for 24 F-16 fighter planes?! Aren’t there more pressing issues?

    And I also agree that the Moudawana is political. It’s carefully calculated by the government, as it serves as distraction from the greater problems plaguing Moroccan society, and allows subtle moves away from Islamic rulings. Women feel slightly more empowered, it certainly helps protect some women, but it does little to restore faith in Moroccan society as a whole.

  4. مرحبا ز

    اشكر متابعتك واهتمامك, ردا على سؤالك نعم علينا الاعتراف ان المدونة كقانون اعطت للمراة بعض الحقوق وهدا واضح اليوم نجد النساء تطالب بالطلاق بنوع من الثقة في النفس, كما نجد ان الرجل اصبح يفكر كثيرا قبل اخد قرار الطلاق, اليوم المراة تستطيع ان تزوج نفسها بدون حظور الولي او 12 شاهد كما هو في السابق هناك تغييرات مقارنة مع نساء ببلدان عربية اخرى حتى لو كانت التغييرات بسيطة الا انها موجودة وليس من المنطق نكرانها, طبعا ليس بالقوانين وحدها يمكن كفالة حق المراة والدليل ان حتى المجتمعات المتقدمة ديمقراطيا لم تتخلص من ظاهرة العنف و اختصاب النساء .لان الطبع البشري وقوانين الطبيعة لا يمكن ان نغيرها مهما تقدمنا.زائد مختلف المشاكل الثقافية والاجتماعيةوالاقتصادية وغيرها.

    بالنسبة لسؤالك التاني اتمنى ان اكون قد فهمته جيدا, لا احد ينكر المشاكل الاجتماعية والنفسية التي يمكن ان ينتجها الطلاق خاصة على الاطفال وهم جزء من المجتمع ,لكن بالمقال انا دكرت ان سجن الزوج عند عجزه عن اعطاء النفقة هو ما يمكنه ان ينتج عنه مشاكل كثيرة, فتخيل كيف سيعامل ام اطفاله التي تسببت في سجنه؟؟؟؟


    • أعتذر مسبقا عن أسلوبي في كتابة العربية
      بالنسبة إلي، المشاكل الإجتماعية دائما موجودة، إلا أنه بفعل إعتلاء المؤسسة العائلية، يصعب رؤية أو دراسة هاته المشاكل. اليوم، مع تفكك نسبي للمؤسسات التقليدية، يمكننا دراسة -و لملا، حل- هذه المشاكل.
      كل ما أريد أن أقول أن المدونة لم تخلق مشاكل إجتماعية، بل فقط أشهرتها، وهو في نظري شيء إجابي.

  5. اسلوبك جيد جدا في كتابة العربية

    احترم رأيك واتفق معك


  6. @Amina: “So I’d much rather see the needs of the disadvantaged addressed before trying to instill a vague concept of dignity.”

    Well, Syassator didn’t talk about a “vague concept of dignity”. He actually referred to constitutional reforms, and I’m guessing that he had in mind such things as separation of powers, popular consultation, etc.

    If anything, the “disadvantaged” concept is the vague one, as it is always relative to the median. If you magically raised the income by 1000dhs for every person, you still end up with people who are worse off than others.

    Your suggestion is pretty much pie-in-the-sky. Syassator’s proposal, on the other hand, can be implemented provided there’s a political will from the king. Observing the king’s actions (and/or inactions) and dissecting his speeches, leaves one with the impression that no such will exists.

    As for the status of women, the elephant in the room is Islam. The examples the author cites, Tunisia and Palestine, are secular states. Egypt was a secular state up until 1980. We, in Morocco, generally resent every whiff of secularism. The political elite even more so (because of the whole “divine legitimacy” issue). The impossibility to enshrine gender equality in the supreme law of the land stems from that.

    Ironically, the counter-argument from the establishment is that this dictatorial status-quo prevents Islamists from raising to power, and turning the place into a even more gender discriminative society. And I’m afraid that this situation is more plausible than anti-Makhzenists would like to admit.

    My jouj d’ryal.

  7. the problem here with this new family law that is was all wrong , who ever approve this law hurt the women in morocco even more , because fefore we start to talk about what making the moroccan women equal to men and have more rights in case of divorce , the law makers should first look at the country in general , in this country , %90 of men and women have no job , the crime is sky high , more than %60 of women don’t even finish their high school , %10 of the moroccan are fulty rich and %90 are dead poor , there are no middle class , in such country before the lawmaker start to think about the women right in case of divorce , shy should first , make sure that %100 of women go to school mandatory and get al least high school , they should first give the women medical care , dental care , job , but there are absolutly no care about women health , education , job in morocco , that is even applies to the moroccan men but in less % , i can’t believe how ignorant the lawmaker are in morocco , in the time which %90 of moroccan men don’t even get married because of povery , in the time which %70 of oroccan women are not married because they can’t find a husband , the lawmaker a creat new law to give the women more rights in case her husband want to marry another women , as a result of that the %10 of men who can affort to have a second wife , stoped and they just live with the women without marriage , so you tell me , is this new law help the moroccan women ? the only peaple who get married in morocco now , are the dead poor peaple who they can’t affort to have a seconf wife .in the time which there are tons of women can’t get married in morocco , the new law make it impossible for the man to get a second wife , you tell me , is that what the women want in morocco ? and in a muslem country i read for that lady up there want to make to sent the husband to jail if he had sex with his wife without her approval , i don’t know what religioun of that lady up there , as per islam , the wife should never reject her husband sexually unless she got a medical reason for that , so for that lady up there , she never talk about the women education , wemen health care , or women jobs , no all what she cares is about sending the husband to jail if he force his wife into sex , waw , she is no different than the moroccan lawmakers.

  8. this is as best as i can get it to be in arabic , i just used Google translation.

    10 يونيو 2010
    01:25 المشكلة هنا مع هذا قانون الأسرة الجديد الذي كان كل خطأ ، والذي يوافق أي وقت مضى هذا القانون يضر المرأة في المغرب أكثر من ذلك ، لأنه قبل أن نبدأ في الحديث عن ما جعل المرأة المغربية متساوية للرجال والحصول على مزيد من الحقوق في حالة الطلاق ، وصانعي القانون ينبغي أن ننظر أولا في البلد بصفة عامة ، في هذا البلد ، بنسبة 90 ٪ من الرجال والنساء ليس لديهم عمل ، والجريمة إلى عنان السماء ، وأكثر من 60 ٪ من النساء لا تنتهي حتى مدرستهم الثانوية ، 10 ٪ من المغاربة غنية جدا و 90 ٪ ماتوا فقراء ، لا توجد طبقة وسطى ، في ذلك البلد قبل بدء البرلمان للتفكير في حق المرأة في حالة الطلاق ، يجب أن تخجل الأول ، تأكد من أن 100 ٪ من النساء الذهاب الى المدرسة الإلزامية والحصول على الأقل مدرسة عالية ، فيجب عليهم اعطاء المرأة لأول مرة الرعاية الطبية والعناية بالأسنان ، وفرص العمل ، ولكن هناك على الاطلاق اي تهتم المرأة الصحة والتعليم وفرص العمل في المغرب ، وهذا هو ينطبق حتى على الرجل المغربي ولكن في أقل ٪ ، لا أستطيع أن أصدق كيف يجهل المشرع في المغرب ، في الوقت الذي لا 90 ٪ من الرجال المغاربة حتى الزواج بسبب الفقر ، في الوقت الذي 70 ٪ من النساء المغربيات غير متزوجين ل انهم لا يستطيعون العثور على زوج ، ومشرع قانون يخلق جديد لمنح النساء مزيدا من الحقوق في حالة زوجها يريد أن يتزوج امرأة أخرى ، ونتيجة لذلك 10 ٪ من الرجال الذين يستطيعون الحصول على زوجة ثانية ، توقفوا ويعيشون فقط مع النساء دون زواج ، لذلك كنت تقول لي ، وهذا هو القانون الجديد على المرأة المغربية؟ الشعب الوحيد الذي تزوج في المغرب الآن ، هي قتيلا الفقراء الذين لا يستطيعون تحمل وجود زوجة ثانية. في الوقت الذي هناك طن من النساء لا يستطعن الزواج في المغرب ، وقانون جديد يجعل من المستحيل للرجل في الحصول على زوجة ثانية ، أنت تقول لي ، هو أن ما تريده المرأة في المغرب؟ والأنصاري في البلد وأنا أقرأ عن هذه السيدة حتى لا تريد أن تجعل لإرسال زوج الى السجن اذا كان قد ممارسة الجنس مع زوجته من دون موافقتها ، وأنا لا أعرف ما دين أن سيدة هناك ، كما في الإسلام ، ينبغي أبدا زوجة رفض زوجها جنسيا إلا إذا حصلت على سبب طبي لذلك ، حتى أن سيدة ليصل هناك ، وقالت انها لم تتحدث عن تعليم المرأة والرعاية الصحية للنساء ، أو النساء وظيفة ، أي كل ما يهتم انها ترسل عن الزوج السجن اذا كان يجبر زوجته على ممارسة الجنس ، و ، وقالت انها لا تختلف عن المشرعين المغربي

    • I think the woman who has it. I myself worry so much about my ceulllite. My fiance of 2 years didn’t even seem to mind my ceulllite. He keeps on telling me that i look fine, that i don’t have to care so much about this kind of stuff.

  9. i believe the new law should care about the kids and only the kids , and that in case the father have the money to pay child support and don’t want to , but if he can’t afford child support like tons of men in morocco , i believe putting them in jail is not the solution in this case the government should carry their responsability and take care of the kids , but interfering the relations between the husband and the wife , and how many women the man can marry ,there is GOD law for that called QURAAN .

    اعتقد ان القانون الجديد يجب أن نهتم الاطفال والاطفال فقط ، وأنه في حال والد لديها المال لدفع دعم الأطفال ولا تريد ، ولكن إذا كان لا يستطيع تحمل مثل دعم الأطفال طن من الرجال في المغرب ، وأعتقد أن وضعها في السجن ليس هو الحل في هذه الحالة يتعين على الحكومة تحمل المسئولية ورعاية الاطفال ، ولكن التدخل في العلاقات بين الزوج والزوجة ، وعدد النساء في الرجل يتزوج ، هناك الله القانون لذلك دعا القرآن..

  10. Almost all these comments are made by young men. They only think in the moudawana as something for young people, or men and women with little kids. What about the rights of a woman married to same husband 40 years, and she gives him 8 kids, 6 still living and youngest one is 24. A farmer with land and houses, and then he gets big money from inheritance France, and wants to divorce his wife and marry girl 15? Why, she is sick with diabetes and he wants a girl, and tell her go? And thinks he does not have to give her anything to live? She is a good woman, but now she is old, and not good health. You think this is right? You think this is Islam? I say good for Moudawana. If he died his wife has right to maintenance. Then, why not if he lives and wants to divorce her just to have girl for a wife? Tell me brothers. What is your answer?

  11. hi All
    i’v read All ur articles and i found it wonderful why? because each one of you have a different opinion and i like that .
    I just wanna thank you All for sharing us those items which is part of us .
    Thanks Again

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