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When Morocco achieved independence from France in 1956, the new nation adopted French civil law, but retained a code of Islamic religious laws to govern behavior within families. In 1956, these religious laws were codified into a formal document, the Moudawana, or Code of Personal Status. Under Moroccan civil law, women were considered equal to men. However, under the Moudawana, women needed permission from their fathers, and later their husbands, for such actions as opening a business and obtaining a passport. Men were free to marry multiple wives, issue unilateral divorces, and make decisions regarding their wives. Women had few rights in divorce and limited property and inheritance rights. From the time of independence, women fought this inequity between secular and religious law.

In the 1990s, the Union for Feminine Action (UAF), a women’s rights group, organized a campaign to collect one million signatures on a petition urging reform of the Moudawana. Their challenge was complicated by the fact that the Moudawana is drawn from the Qu’ran
, which is a sacred text and therefore not seen as open to interpretation. King Hassan II agreed to hear the women’s concerns, and referred the matter to a council of religious leaders. In 1993, limited reforms were announced. Since then, new women’s rights have been granted, and the Moroccan government is promoting women’s literacy and waging a campaign against violence against women. The UAF continues its work on behalf of women throughout Morocco.


Female Equality
Religious Law vs. Civil Law