After more than three decades of advocacy, the women’s movement in Morocco, supported by a large segment of civil society, has had high expectations that the long awaited Combating Violence against Women bill will finally provide a comprehensive legal and institutional framework that would protect women’s rights, notes Moroccan-American policy analyst Hanane Zelouani Idrissi:
However, women’s rights groups and activists are raising concerns about the government’s proposed draft law’s (known as draft Law 103-13) as it has many shortcomings. A number of women’s rights activists and NGOs have described this draft as unconstitutional as it does not translate the essence of the articles in the Constitution calling for gender equality and equity and is not in conformity with the international conventions of which Morocco is a signatory, in terms of women’s rights and protection against violence and discrimination. This while the Constitution clearly affirms Morocco’s adherence to these conventions.
In 2009-10 a national survey found that 62.8% of women aged 18 to 65 had experienced some form of physical, psychological, sexual or economic violence, adds analyst Rachel Schmidt.
While Morocco has a massive civil society sector with lots of women’s rights organizations, the laws in Morocco do not provide enough guidance for justice and law enforcement officials to adequately protect women. As a result, women have become increasingly frustrated with attempts to seek protection and support, much less justice. In addition, many women and girls can’t even access their own identification papers in order to seek divorce or custody of their children, she writes for Open Democracy:
Compounding the problem is the fact that the Moroccan government has become increasingly hostile to CSOs and especially to major human rights organizations, both domestic and international. In fact, according to Rothna Begum, the author of Human Rights Watch’s most recent report on violence against women in Morocco, the government has recently stated that they do not want her organization to conduct research in the country at all. She states that the government’s recent responses indicate an overall strategy of cutting off anyone who is critical of their actions or policies, citing the government’s recent suspension of contact with the European Union over the disputed territory of Western Sahara as just one recent example.
“If passed as it stands, the current draft law will not only be a setback for Morocco’s stated commitment to advancing the status of women’s rights,” notes Idrissi (right), who works with the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington DC-based democracy assistance group. “ It will also be a setback to the 2011 constitutional reform promises that the country made to itself, as a response to February 20th Movement protests that took place in Morocco in parallel with the Arab Spring Uprisings, under the slogan of ‘Freedom, Dignity, and Social Justice.’’