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The purpose of my living here in Oued El-Ouliya is, in short, to research the impact of the recent
reform (2004) of the Family Code (or the Moudawana) on people’s lives through interviews,
discussions with both women and men and basically through being a “participant observant” -
ethnographer. The Family Code is a code that deals with everything pertaining to family – thus,
with marriages, marriage contracts, relationship between husband and wife, their rights and duties,
with divorce, polygamy, inheritance, with rights of children, women and men. I don’t want to go
into a long discussion about the reform or the Code itself, let me just say for the purpose of this blog
that the reform has stirred a lot of emotions both positive as negative, and the aftermath or
“implementation” has been a mixture of disappointment (because of the rather slow and uneven
application and disregard of certain provisions not only in more rural but also in urban areas) and
welcome improvements as this reform also opened the door for reforms of other discriminatory and
ossified laws (e.g. Nationality Code, etc.).
Women’s activists in Morocco are not slow to point out what a great achievement the law
has been for Morocco and for women. Some even argue that it has brought equality to women. I
would argue that although the reform has certainly made a step closer to “equality” and without a
doubt has improved women’s rights in comparison to the old Code at least on paper, it remains more
or less an empty shell, a paper to show to the outside world that the country is democratizing. The
reality, at least in Oued El-Ouliya, has been minimally affected by it and much has to do with
“taqalid” (traditions) holding a rather firm grip on the society. That is not to say however, that the
community is static. Significant changes are happening and these might and most probably will be
the main catalyst for the overall improvement of women’s lives, a result so anxiously awaited and
advocated by the women’s rights activists. How much of it is the works of the Moudawana however,
I still say is disputed.
What perhaps is missing in this discourse is their, women’s activists’, definition of
“(Moroccan) gender equality.” It certainly is a word in vogue among women fighting for their
rights, although my observation has been that a lot of these women already are equal with men as it
seems, and this is not only my observation but something frequently heard among those dealing
with women’s issues here in Morocco, that the Moudawana has only benefitted women of a certain
(i.e. higher) social class particularly because they benefitted from education, living in big cities
where the taqalid have given way to a “modern, European” life, marrying husbands who
acknowledge their worth, and mingling in the kind of society where equality is not a question but a
given fact. But this is another Morocco, much different from the Morocco I’m living in.
Pessimism aside, what’s the most important about the reform are the principles the new Code
sets – first of all, with the reform it was shown that even sacred laws can be touched, debated and in
the end reformed; and secondly, and this is perhaps essential, recognition of the need to improve
women’s rights in the country should not be understated. After all, big earth-shattering changes don’t
happen over night and when such a reform necessitates transformation of people’s mentality, when
it entails a dramatic cultural metamorphosis to be fully implemented, you can be sure that it will
take a generation or two to be fully implemented and arrive to The final goal – equality between
women and men. Whatever that means or shall mean.

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23.11.2009 16:49


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