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Country visit to Morocco

 

Tribunal de Grande Instance in Rabat, Morocco © OHCHR
Tribunal de Grande Instance in Rabat, Morocco
© OHCHR

At the invitation of the Government of Morocco, the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice visited the country from 13 to 20 February 2012. The Working Group’s visit coincided with an important moment in Morocco’s history, namely, the culmination of a decade of democratic reforms in the adoption of a new Constitution in July 2011, followed by the inauguration of a new Government after parliamentary elections in November 2011. 

The Working Group acknowledged the important progress on equality and women’s human rights made by Morocco. Its legal framework has undergone a series of amendments, notably to the Family and Nationality Codes and new laws have been enacted which have contributed to enhancing equality between men and women and lessening discrimination against women. The new Constitution is a crowning achievement in this framework, providing a solid basis for greater progress on equality and women’s human rights in Morocco. It establishes the primacy of international law in the domestic legal order and requires that domestic laws be harmonised with international standards. Its article 19 enshrines the principle of equality between men and women and creates a body to advance progress in these areas. Ensuring respect for Constitutional provisions will be an issue of great importance to Morocco in the coming years.

Notwithstanding political and legal advances, the Working Group identified several discriminatory provisions in the Family Code, the Nationality Code, the Penal Code and the Labour Code which perpetuate inequalities and discrimination against women in Morocco. It found that gender-sensitive interpretation and enforcement of the law continue to be areas for considerable improvement so as to guarantee women equality before the law and equal protection of the law. The Working Group was also made aware of conservative and patriarchal attitudes which permeate the law and its application, risking regression from current achievements, and serving to maintain inequalities, discrimination, degrading and harmful practices and violence against women. 

The Working Group found the institutional and policy framework for gender equality and women’s human rights to be comprehensive. Importantly, the new Constitution has created an “authority for parity and the fight against all forms of discrimination”. A key challenge will be to ensure coherence across these multiple institutions and to establish the authority without delay as it is poised to play a pivotal role in ensuring further consolidation and advancement of gender equality and women’s human rights. 

In the area of political and public life, the new Constitution renews hope of increasing women’s participation in decision-making bodies and two organic laws establish a quota for women’s representation in the Parliament and in political parties governing bodies. The meagre representation of women in the composition of the new Government, however, is a troubling sign for women. The Working Group recommended that concrete steps be taken, without delay, to safeguard and further advance the achievements on women’s rights in Morocco, including in anticipation of the next local elections.

The Working Group found that rural women and other marginalized groups of women in Morocco suffer many hardships that deprive them of their human rights. The devolution of powers to the regions can be an effective means to combat rural poverty, especially by increasing women’s participation in political life, including at the local level, and initiatives such as the National Human Development Initiative are offering women life-transforming opportunities. However, this national initiative needs to take rights and results-based approaches and guarantee women’s full and active ownership of the programme. As gender-based violence remains a serious concern in Morocco, a critical area for action is to close the gaps in legal protection on violence against women, including by enacting a law as soon as possible on all forms of violence against women.

The Working Group was able to document several good practices, including with regards to leadership and political willingness at the highest levels of Government and a truly vibrant civil society working towards gender equality and women’s human rights. Morocco’s well-developed gender-responsive budgeting approach also deserves recognition. The report offers a number of recommendations to improve the legal protection and the institutional and policy framework, advance women’s participation in political and public life and empower rural women and other marginalized groups of women.