C Explanatory memorandum by Ms Memecan,
rapporteur for opinion
1 Gender equality and women’s rights in the context
of partner for democracy status
1. Gender equality is a core element in the context
of the procedure to obtain the status of partner for democracy.
The request for such a status should include an explicit reference
to the aspiration of the applicant parliament to embrace the values
of the Council of Europe, which are pluralist and gender-parity-based democracy,
the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It should also include a commitment to encourage balanced participation
of women and men in public and political life.Note
Furthermore, the parliamentary delegation enjoying partner
for democracy status should, in so far as the number of its members
allows it, be composed in such a manner as to ensure a fair representation
of the political parties or groups in that parliament and to include
at least the same percentage of the under-represented sex as is
present in the parliament, and in any case one representative of
4. As rapporteur of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for
Women and Men, in the present opinion I shall take stock of the
situation of gender equality in Morocco, highlighting achievements
and remaining challenges.
2 Women’s representation in politics
2.1 At parliamentary level
5. The Constitution of Morocco, in force since 1996,
states at Article 5 that “all Moroccan citizens shall be equal before
the law”. In addition to this general principle, the constitution
also states, in Article 8, that “men and women shall enjoy equal
political rights. Any citizen of age enjoying his or her civil and
political rights shall be eligible to vote.”
Despite women’s having active and passive voting rights, their
representation in parliament was negligible for decades.Note
7. This situation changed radically thanks to the introduction,
in 2002, of a quota system for the House of Representatives (the
lower house of parliament). According to this system, out of the
325 seats of the House of Representatives, 30 are reserved for women,
to be elected from a national list of female candidates.
8. The remaining 295 seats are elected in 95 multi-seat constituencies,
in which lists may include women and men. Following the 2007 elections,
in addition to the 30 reserved seats, women occupied 10 out of the
9. The situation is different for the House of Councillors, the
upper house of parliament, where there is no quota set aside for
women. There are currently six female members.
10. Its 270 members are elected indirectly. Three fifths of the
house are made up of members elected from each region by an electoral
college composed of local government representatives. The remaining
two-fifths are made up of members elected in each region by electoral
colleges composed of elected officials from the professional chambers
(agriculture; commerce, industry and services; the craft industry;
and marine fisheries) and of members elected at the national level
by an electoral college composed of employees’ representatives (trade
11. While the Parliament of Morocco does not have a committee
dealing specifically with equal opportunities between women and
men and gender issues, women members of both houses created, in
2005, a group called “Forum des femmes parlementaires marocaines”,
the Forum of Moroccan women parliamentarians.
12. The group aims to strengthen co-operation amongst women members
of parliament and to promote the role of women in the framework
of Moroccan parliamentary democracy.
2.2 Within the government
13. Out of 34 ministers and secretaries of state of the
current government, five are women. Amongst them are the Minister
of Energy, Mines, Water and the Environment; the Minister of Health;
and the Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity, who
is in charge of women and gender issues.
2.3 At local level
14. As a result of the successful pressure exerted by
women’s rights advocates, a quota system of 12% of the seats reserved
for women has been introduced for local elections. As a result,
in June 2009, when the new law was first enforced, 3 324 women were
elected to local councils. This represented a dramatic increase
in women’s representation at local level.
15. Women have occupied prominent positions in local politics
only for a few years. Marrakech was the first large city to elect
a woman as mayor in 2009, while the town of Essaouira had a woman
mayor from 2003 to 2009. There are no women among the powerful regional Wali (prefects), and there are only
two female governors.
3 Gender equality in family law
16. Women’s rights in the private sphere are a prerequisite
and an important indicator of gender equality.
17. In 1993, Morocco ratified the United Nations Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
However, it also submitted several reservations, on the grounds
that the CEDAW provisions on equality between spouses at all phases
of a marital union and the right of a mother to transmit her citizenship
to her children were incompatible with the then existing Moroccan
18. Since then, the situation has evolved. Substantial progress
was made in this respect with the adoption of the new Family Code,
or Moudawana, in 2004, which
marked a turning point for the situation of women.
3.1 Areas of progress
19. The new code incorporates the principle of equality
in marriage and grants more rights to women. Moroccan women can
marry freely, without the permission of their father. The family
is considered the joint responsibility of both spouses and not solely
of the husband, as in the past. The requirement of “obedience” no
longer exists, and the law considers wife and husband as joint heads
of the household. The fact that spouses are on an equal footing
is also testified to by the revision of the marital age, which is
now 18 years for both women and men, whereas it used to be 15 and
20. The new code also reformed divorce. Men’s unilateral right
to divorce has been restricted, and two new forms of divorce have
been introduced, based on either mutual consent or irreconcilable
differences. Both can be initiated by either spouse.
21. Polygamy was not abolished by the 2004 Moudawana,
but it became subject to a judge’s approval and is now allowed only
under strict legal conditions.
22. A married man must prove that he has an exceptional reason
for seeking an additional wife, as well as his ability to support
both wives equally. In addition, a clause can be included in the
contract of marriage by which the husband is not allowed to remarry.
These conditions make polygamy difficult and extremely rare in Moroccan
23. In line with the gender equality principle enshrined in the
current Moudawana, Morocco’s
nationality law was also reformed. Until 2007, nationality law was
based on ius sanguinis (blood),
limited to the father. The child of a Moroccan woman married to
a foreigner would not be born a Moroccan citizen. With the new law, both
women and men have the right to pass on Moroccan citizenship to
24. As a result of these legislative reforms, in 2008 Morocco
was able to withdraw its reservations concerning the Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
By then, the legal framework enabled the country to implement the
convention in all its aspects.
3.2 Remaining areas of concern
25. Despite these numerous positive developments, Morocco’s
family law still presents weaknesses and inconsistencies as regards
26. Provisions on inheritance are clearly discriminatory since
men inherit twice as much as women.
27. Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslim men. This
represents a form of discrimination against women, as no similar
provision applies to men; moreover, it is a violation of the fundamental
right to marry and also a restriction on freedom of religion.
28. The fact that polygamy, although rare in Moroccan society,
has not been banned is also contrary to the principle of gender
equality. Further amendments to the legal framework therefore seem
advisable. If in 2004 the legislators chose to amend the family
law without challenging some traditional and religious norms deeply rooted
in tradition, the time might now be ripe for a more daring approach.
In other Muslim countries, such as Tunisia and Turkey, polygamy
has long been absent from the legal landscape and is not missed.
29. In addition to the weaknesses of the law, the gap between
statute and actual implementation is wide. The Family Code is often
criticised for leaving too much room for the interpretation and
discretion of the judge. Moreover, the reform has not been accompanied
by adequate training for staff within the judiciary. Finally, a number
of marriages, particularly in rural areas, are celebrated in traditional
form and are not officially registered, thus escaping the application
of the law and depriving women of any protection provided by it.
4 The status of women in society
30. Moroccan women’s growing representation in politics
does not reflect an accurate image of the status of women in Moroccan
society: while women politicians’ participation tends to be the
expression of a social élite, the advancement of the status of women
in Moroccan society is a challenge still to be met.
31. This challenge has been taken up, in quantitative terms, by
the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which has recently
introduced, in addition to the other indexes used to calculate a
country’s human development, a new “Gender Inequality Index”. This
takes into account several indicators of reproductive health, political
empowerment and labour force participation.
32. According to UNDP’s 2010 Human Development Report, Morocco
has a high Gender Inequality Index value (0.655), close to that
of Egypt and other countries in the region but far from the level
of countries such as the Netherlands (0.174) and most other European
states, which range between 0.200 and 0.300.
As a result of such a relatively low placement in the Gender
Equality Index, the country’s Human Development Index value is as
low as 0.567, which places Morocco below the general and the regional average,
ranking 114th out of 169 countries.Note
34. The gender gap is particularly wide when it comes to education.
The population overall has a low literacy rate, 52.3% according
to the 2004 census, but gender-specific data show a great imbalance
(65.7% for men, 39.6% for women). It is hardly necessary to underline
that the high incidence of illiteracy prevents a large number of
Moroccan women from participating in cultural, economic, social
and political life on an equal footing with men.
35. While the high illiteracy rate as a whole seems to be a product
of insufficient infrastructure and other spending in recent decades,
particularly in rural areas, the gender gap is a consequence of
traditional and cultural practices making it more difficult for
girls to gain access to education.
36. The Moroccan Government is increasingly aware of the importance
of literacy and education, and public investment in schooling is
growing. However, it is essential that education policies integrate
a gender perspective in order for the current gender gap to be bridged.
The Charter for Education and Training, adopted in 2000, and
the Najah Emergency Plan of 2006 have proved successful. They included
the adoption of a gender-specific approach in the state budget and
in textbook design, as well as infrastructure measures, such as
the construction of schools, canteens and boarding schools.NoteNote
efforts should continue apace.
38. Since 2005, with the reform of the public budget procedures,
the Moroccan Government has indeed considered gender-sensitive budgeting
as the way forward. As a result, since then, the finance bill has
been accompanied by an annual gender report, showing how the guidelines
on gender-sensitive budgeting have been followed.
The gender report evaluates the gender-specific impact of
public policies. It presents the current situation, the methodology
applied and the achievements of the departments involved, by means
of gender-sensitive performance indicatorsNote
On 8 March 2007, the Prime Minister issued a circular letter calling
on state departments to introduce gender mainstreaming in all development
40. Even if the challenge of advancing the status of women has
not yet been met, progress can be seen in all aspects of social
and economic life. It is worth recalling that, on several occasions,
as Morocco presented its official report on the implementation of
CEDAW to the relevant committee of the United Nations, a network of
women’s non-governmental organisations (NGOs) presented parallel
41. Those reports, which provide the NGO views on the status of
women in the country, represent a considerable co-ordination effort
and testify to an advanced level of development and dynamism of
civil society, including women’s organisations.
5 Violence against women
42. Gender-based violence is a scourge in Morocco as
in other countries. Traditionally underestimated owing to cultural
reasons and under-reporting, this issue has become more visible
in the last few years thanks to the work of a number of non-governmental
organisations and to increased attention by the government. Today
it is recognised as one of the most widespread and severe violations
of women’s human rights in the country.
According to a study recently published by the Haut Commissariat
au Plan, a governmental agency in charge of national statistics
and planning, 62.8% of Moroccan adult women suffered some form of
gender-based violence in 2010.Note
Anaruz, a network
of non-governmental organisations assisting victims of gender-based
violence, in 2007 issued research showing that 74% of women are
victims of violence in the country. These data include domestic
violence (not just physical but also psychological violence, such
as economic violence or denial of family spending).Note
44. Precise data are difficult to collect, as a large number of
cases go unreported. Both the woman’s weak position within the household
and the lack of specific legislation discourage victims from applying
to the law enforcement authorities.
45. The first national campaign against gender-based violence
was launched by the Moroccan Government in 1998, and several have
followed. In 2006, in the framework of the national strategy against
gender-based violence, a National Observatory on Violence against
Women was set up, in which several ministries (health, justice,
education) and state departments co-operate with civil society.
The Minister for Social Development, Family and Solidarity envisaged
a draft bill to outlaw domestic and gender-based violence as specific
criminal offences, but this has not been presented for the time
46. The lack of specific provisions criminalising gender-based
violence in Moroccan legislation makes the fight against gender-based
and domestic violence much more difficult both for public authorities
and non-governmental organisations.
47. I strongly encourage the Moroccan authorities to pursue the
avenue of statutory enforcement. The introduction of a specific
legal framework, based on a comprehensive approach including the
prevention of violence, the protection of victims and the prosecution
of perpetrators, would represent a major step forward.
48. The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating
violence against women and domestic violence (CETS No. 210), recently opened for signature
in Istanbul, reflects the most advanced standards on this issue.
Therefore, I call on the Moroccan authorities to look carefully
into the possibility of acceding to the convention.
49. The convention is open to accession by Council of Europe member
states and also by non-member states that took part in the negotiations.
Third parties, such as Morocco, can accede upon invitation from
the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Morocco should
take the initiative to solicit such an invitation.
6 Conclusions by the rapporteur
50. The Assembly was visionary when it decided to set
up the status of partner for democracy. Europe is linked to its
neighbours not only through physical proximity but also through
history, culture, religion and migration. The vocation of the Council
of Europe is to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of
law. This cannot stop at Europe’s physical borders.
51. The status of partner for democracy represents an important
tool, ideally in the context of a more comprehensive and elaborate
Council of Europe neighbourhood policy yet to be developed, to assist
the parliament of a neighbouring country in making further progress
towards the realisation of those universal values upheld by our
52. The Parliament of Morocco should be granted the status of
partner for democracy.
53. On the one hand, this status will strengthen the Council of
Europe’s outreach capacity in the southern Mediterranean. On the
other hand, it will allow Morocco to rely on the Council of Europe’s
specific expertise in pursuing the reform path it has already undertaken,
including in the field of gender equality and gender-parity-based
54. I hope I reflect the views of Mr Luca Volontè, rapporteur
of the Political Affairs Committee, by saying that granting the
status of partner for democracy is not the end but only the beginning
of closer, mutual and fruitful co-operation between the Parliament
of Morocco and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
in making democracy, human rights and the rule of law objectives
that are within reach.