Morocco: Defending Basic Rights and Equality for Women


Educational pamphlet about Morocco's 2004 Family Code, one of many new laws to end discrimination and promote equality for women.
(Photo: Still from video, "Women in the Frontline: Morocco")

Morocco is undertaking major changes to its laws and customs to improve human rights for women and promote them as equal partners in all aspects of society.

Morocco's introduction of the groundbreaking new Family Code in 2004 gave women greater equality and protection of their human rights within marriage and divorce, in accordance with Article 16 of the CEDAW treaty. The original Moudawanah, or Family Code, was introduced following independence in 1957, and made wives legally subordinate to their husbands. Morocco ratified CEDAW in 1993 and after many years of advocacy by organizations calling for human rights for women and in cooperation with King Mohamed VI and the P rime Minister, Morocco introduced the new Moudawanah in 2004. The new Family Code uses Article 16 of CEDAW as a guide to give women greater equality and protection for their human rights within marriage and divorce, and it gives husbands and wives joint responsibility for their families. The Code raised the legal age for marriage from 15 to 18, changed marriage and divorce laws, and greatly restricted polygamy. It also introduced Family Courts to ensure that the new rights are enforced.

The introduction of the new Family Code was part of a broader wave of reforms within Morocco, including changes to the Labor Code to introduce the concept of sexual harassment in the workplace (2004), changes to the Penal Code to criminalize spousal violence, changes to the Nationality Code (2007) to give women and men equal rights to transmit nationality to their children, and changes to the Electoral Code, to increase women's political participation by creating a "national list" that reserves 30 parliamentary seats for women (2002).

In December 2008, King Mohammed VI publically banned discrimination against women and officially lifted all Morocco's previous reservations on CEDAW, stating "Our country has become an international actor of which the progress and daring initiatives in this matter are readily recognized."