This week in class we have begun to explore in more detail what living in a culture so saturated with Islam really means legally, socially, and economically for women and families. Day-to-day life in my host family is definitely centered around Islam as our host father diligently prays five times a day, our housekeeper watches the live stream of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca while she cooks dinner, and traditional decorations and photos of religious ceremonies adorn the house. Beyond the smaller details told to us by our host mom – like you shouldn’t vacation during Ramadan because you can’t go out in a bathing suit during the day! – Islam penetrates the legal code and social interactions of Moroccans.
The Moudawana, or Family Code of Morocco, is the only Moroccan law based on religious pretexts and its implications are vast and at times very discriminatory towards women. We have been focusing on issues with unwed mothers, child abandonment, adoption, and violence against women in class, but the issues delve deeper in to a general lack of autonomy and the legal inferiority of women. Listening to stories of minors being forced to marry their rapists or young women being forced to abandon their children in order to avoid persecution obviously rile me up and make me wonder how any women in Morocco could sit back and accept these laws, yet I realize the context is much more complicated and many women do not have the power or opportunity to defend their rights or even be informed of their rights. Even my host mother was surprisingly conservative in her opinions of orphans and their young, unwed mothers.
Obviously the problem of women’s legal rights has many facets beyond the influence of Islam, and not all laws in the Moudawana are negative for women and children. Educating women of their rights and working on changing cultural norms of silence surrounding women’s issues are grand but essential tasks in the years ahead for Morocco. I am really looking forward to further understanding the situation and to hearing more from NGOs who are working to make legal changes in Parliament and on the ground.