Women's rights in Muslim societies: Lessons from the Moroccan experience

Philosophy and Social Criticism 38 (4-5):525-533 (2012)
Major changes have taken place in Muslim societies in general during the last decades. Traditional family and social organizational structures have come into conflict with the perceptions and needs of development and modern state-building. Moreover, the international context of globalization, as well as changes in intercommunity relations through immigration, have also deeply affected social and cultural mutations by facilitating contact between different cultures and civilizations. Of the dilemmas arising from these changes, those concerning women’s and men’s roles were the most conflictive issues because of different interpretations and evaluations of historical, religious and/or cultural heritages. In the case of Morocco, for over 30 years, women’s and human rights NGOs have acted and advocated to promote women’s rights. The main disputes have concerned the distinction between what is within the requirements of Islam and what is the consequence of traditional social beliefs and practices. This ended nevertheless with the adoption by the Parliament of a new Family Law proclaimed in February 2004. This law was the result of a process of consultation and national debate, which made possible substantial progress in terms of proclaimed values of equality of rights between men and women, with the support of most national political and social leaders. Several lessons can be learned from the Moroccan experience. The crucial role of civil society, the political support of the state at its highest level, the working methodology of the Royal Advisory Commission and the final process for the adoption of the new code were from the most determinant parameters. In light of recent developments in some majority-Muslim countries, the future of women’s rights is a key issue of the so-called Arab spring. Muslim women’s challenges and struggles are not only ideological and legal battles, but they are also social and political struggles for which one of the major conditions is to prevent and prohibit the use of Islam as a political instrument. Muslim societies need to educate people properly and change their traditional representations and patterns of thought. To promote justice, equity and equality in general, as well as to protect women’s economic rights, they need appropriate economic and social policies. Then women can really promote, protect and benefit from the advances of their legal status
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DOI 10.1177/0191453712448000
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