The Moroccan Family Code “Moudawana”

Landmark Reform of the Status of Women

A new family code – the Moudawana – was unanimously adopted by the Moroccan parliament in February 2004. The new law is a landmark reform of the status of Moroccan women as it puts them on equal footing with men in regard to marriage and children.
The new code places the family under the joint responsibility of the husband and the wife instead of the husband only and curbs the submission of women to the guardianship of a male member of the family.

Main Changes to the Family Code

* Minimum age of marriage raised to 18 for women
* Sharing of property between married couples
* Polygamy strictly controlled
* Repudiation and divorce can be initiated by women and are subject to judicial supervision
* Possibility of women to retain custody of children
* Inheritance rights improved for women
* Recognition of children born out of wedlock and simplified proof of paternity procedure
* Removal of degrading language toward women in the family code
* Provisions on children’s rights in accordance with the international instruments ratified by Morocco

The Moroccan Women’s Movement

The Moroccan women’s movement has since the late 1980s worked to combat violence against women, discrimination, under-representation of women in government and the economic sector, and illiteracy. The landmark reforms to the personal status code came after years of advocacy for women’s equal rights on matters covering marriage and divorce.

Overview of the main advances in women’s rights in Morocco since 2002…

Obstacles Remain

Despite the improved legislation on the status of women, procedural obstacles in legal proceedings in cases involving women’s rights are often hampering effective implementation of the new family code.
Cultural norms, tradition, high illiteracy rates, and lack of knowledge of their legal rights in many cases prevent women from invoking their rights or reporting crimes against them, such as rape, child abuse, sexual exploitation and domestic violence.