Women’s Rights: A Good Bet For Modernity

Kacem says that the issue of women’s rights in Morocco can not be addressed exclusively legally. He explains that it is intimately linked to the social level of consciousness and ability to accept the gender equality culture.


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Monday, March 29th, 2010

A few weeks ago, the world commemorated International Women’s Day. I wished that day could bring something new and positive for women. But it did not. All it brought instead were sexual allusions and pink, yellow and red flowers, with the smell of treason. This happens mainly because we (men) don’t find much to share apart from our suppressed fantasies and faded flowers, while the real issues remain forever postponed until the next “International Day”!

We commemorate international days in order to celebrate women across the world (or rather to mourn them), and then we just sit to laugh and brag about a woman’s revolution in a mountain in Kandahar, or count the story of a woman freezing to death in a village in Morocco… and we end up exchanging flowers and red roses with lovers from across the Third World, intimidated, but at the same time inspired by the (forcibly) forbidden values of love and freedom.

What women need most in Morocco is the respect for their right to exist, the support for their freedom of choice and for an independent lifestyle, away from all forms of exclusion and inferiority. Women need no more laws on divorce, custody, and citizenship that many hold as the sole guaranties of their rights. They need no more feminist associations to “defend” their rights, for these in my opinion do nothing but isolate women and don’t allow them to be equal to men. Can you imagine how negative women’s reaction would be if such an association were created to defend men? The issue of defending women’s rights is an integral part of the whole human rights struggle. It is a duty for both genders!

As far as women’s rights are concerned, Morocco has not yet reached the level where there is a firm belief in gender equality. Despite the legislative gain brought by the new family code (the Moudawana), the law remains somewhat limited and in need of emendation, since it contains numerous contradictions, with an irreconcilable mix between the principles of secularism and the values of Islam. Successful social and emotional interactions between men and women are essentially the result of a humanist education that people should assimilate and comprehend. They are certainly not the outcome of religious interpretations or preconceived perceptions towards women and their being! Accordingly, all the manifestations of exclusion and marginalization borne by women in Morocco and the Muslim world in general, are the product of a culture based on irrational thought and that draws its strength from traditional religious teachings. This, in turn, breeds and nurtures oppressive male mentality and attitudes, and conditions women into subservience and submission, until they accept the merciless divine wroth against them. Not to mention countless social examples where women are considered to be a treasure chest that once opened, loses any value. And I mean here of course the obsession with hymen, a nightmare that haunts girls from their earliest age until the night of their wedding. Also, some men seem to believe that the only natural place for a woman is in the house or in the village. So when they see women out in the street they feel their private sphere has been invaded.

Because of these attitudes, Moroccan women are generally forced away from modern life, and modernity often seems symbolic and false to them. Women in Morocco are trapped in a social vision that vehemently opposes any philosophy that seeks development or progress, and that is considered blasphemous or threatening to local religious and social values.

The problem with the progressive movement in Morocco is that it failed to take a clear position on all the issues that impede the march toward more rights and freedoms. The result is a form of modernity with a special local flavor: it amalgamates the prevailing norms and values with novel thoughts and visions. And this can not, in any way, be considered a helping factor in support of women’s rights. It is at best a form of modernity that is constrained and limited to an elite class that already enjoys certain economic and social powers.

The issue of women’s rights in Morocco can not be addressed exclusively legally. It is intimately linked to the social level of consciousness, maturity and ability to accept the gender equality culture, over the current set of demands and principles that block everything deemed against the fundamental principles of religion. Otherwise I don’t see how a woman who claims equality with men would ever face the fact that in inheritance law for example, and according to the Koran, a woman is worth half that of a man?!

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Translated by Hisham from حقوق للمرأة أم رهان من أجل الحداثة!

Posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010

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5 comments on “Women’s Rights: A Good Bet For Modernity”

  1. I read through all these essays to see who might touch on the inheritance issue. Kudos to Kacem — except that, as always, no one cares to delve into the purpose behind the “1/2 share for women compared to men.” This is not a matter of modern versus backwards, Islamic laws don’t date themselves as they should remain relevant to any Islamic society, no matter the era. (So should Islamic dress, but that’s another issue.) However, Morocco, as most readers know, is far from a “true Islamic” society.

    For uninformed readers, under Islamic law, women are entitled to full financial maintenance, be it from a father, brother, husband or other male relative. In the absence of a male relative, then the society should maintain her. Is this to leave her strapped and bound, bowing to male ego? Hardly. It’s so that she doesn’t HAVE to work outside the home if it doesn’t suit her.

    In the case of inheritance, a woman’s brother may inherit double her share from a deceased father because he is obligated to support the women of his family (including his sister if she is not married), while she is not obligated to support herself from her own inheritance share or any other money. So the law is actually in favor of the financial ease of women.

    In another application, this means that if a wife works, or has her own substantial savings, her wealth and income are for her solely if she chooses, and need not go towards food, housing, clothing or other family expenses. If she doesn’t work, she can feel content with, and unapologetic about, her contribution as wife and mother.

    And if an unmarried woman chooses not to work, she is supposed to feel assured, and not beholden to the fact, that someone in her family will provide for her.

    None of this is to prevent women from seeking advanced degrees, or working in fulfilling careers, or contributing substantially to their family’s finances. It’s really about the right a woman has whether or not to choose whether or not to do that, and it also elevates the status of women who are devoted to domestic pursuits.

    All that said, the problems in Morocco hardly improve with the family law, or a change to inheritance law. It’s that the country has so deviated from core Islamic values that men can’t or don’t stand up to their full responsibilities. And for those that want to, the opportunities are dismal.

    • @Amina:

      > “This is not a matter of modern versus backwards,”

      Kinda is.

      Humanity, in general, has had strong patriarchal tendencies. It is only recently that women started being viewed as full citizens. Morocco’s just some time behind.

      > “Islamic laws don’t date themselves as they should remain relevant to any Islamic society, no matter the era. However, Morocco, as most readers know, is far from a “true Islamic” society.”

      Irrelevant! Moroccans are of all creeds. You (Muslims) have no right telling the rest how to live their lives. Laws should be grounded in reason and public debate, not so-called divine scripture.

      Get out of this medieval mindset, please.

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