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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 October, 2003, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Morocco boosts women's rights
Morocco's King Mohammed VI has announced a landmark reform granting women new rights in marriage and divorce. The announcement came in a speech at the opening of parliament. Here are excerpts of his address broadcast live by Moroccan state television.

As for the family and promoting women's conditions, I highlighted their intrinsic problems on the eve of assuming the great responsibility of the Emir of the Faithful, asking... How can society advance while the rights of women - who form half of it - are squandered and they are subjected to injustice, violence and marginalisation despite the deference and fairness accorded to them by our true religion?...

We intend... to adopt the following reforms:

The aim is to draw up a modern Family Law which is consistent with the spirit of our tolerant religion
King Mohammed VI

1: The adoption of a new formulation to replace the notions which harm women's dignity and humanity to make the husband and wife jointly responsible for the family...

2: Give true authority to women to exercise it in accordance with their choice and interest on the basis of one of the interpretations of the Koranic verse which prevents forcing women into marriage without their consent...

3: Ensure equality between women and men with regard to setting the age of marriage at 18 years [for both]... together with entrusting the judge with the possibility of lowering the age in justifiable cases...

4: Regarding polygamy, we have taken into account Islam's tolerant aims in preserving justice...

Polygamy will only be permissible in accordance with the following legal provisions:

  • The judge will not allow polygamy unless he is convinced of the husband's ability to treat his second wife and her children on equal footing with the first wife in all spheres of life and if he is convinced of the objective justification to allow polygamy.

  • Women have the right to impose a condition in the marriage contract preventing the husband from taking a second wife...

  • If there were no conditions, the first wife should be summoned to secure her consent. The second wife should be informed that the husband was married to another women and her consent should be obtained, and the first wife should be given the right to demand a divorce...

Divorce reform

6: Make divorce... a prerogative that can be exercised by both the husband and the wife... under judicial supervision. The husband's right to resort to repudiation shall be limited by norms and conditions designed to avoid misuse...

Moroccan MPs

Mechanisms of reconciliation and mediation shall be strengthened through the family and the judge.

Divorce is the husband's prerogative but the wife may avail herself of this prerogative... Whatever the case, it shall be ascertained that the divorced woman gets all the rights to which she is entitled before the divorce is authorised.

A new procedure for divorce has been established, requiring the court's prior authorisation. Divorce cannot be registered until all money owed to the wife and the children has been paid in full by the husband...

7: Expand the woman's right to file for divorce if the husband fails to observe any terms of the marriage contract or if he harms his wife through, for example, lack of financial support, desertion, violence, or any other ill-treatment...

Another provision has been introduced allowing divorce by mutual consent, under the supervision of a judge.

'Gains for all Moroccans'

8: Protect children's rights by adding to this law the relevant provisions of international agreements ratified by Morocco. The children's interests as regards custody will be guaranteed...

10: Give the granddaughter and the grandson on the mother's side the right to inherit from their grandfather, as part of the compulsory legacy, just like the son's children...

The proposed legislation is meant to reconcile lifting the iniquity imposed on women, protecting children's rights and safeguarding men's dignity
King Mohammed VI

11: Regarding the management of property acquired by the spouses during their marriage... the couple may agree, in a document other than the marriage contract, on how to manage and invest the assets acquired jointly during their marriage.

In case of disagreement, they shall resort to the judge who shall base his assessment on the general conditions of evidence to determine the contribution of each of the spouses...

These reforms... should not be perceived as the victory of one side over the other but rather as gains for all Moroccans...

The aim is to draw up a modern Family Law which is consistent with the spirit of our tolerant religion.

- The Family Law should not be considered as a law designed exclusively for women but rather as a code for the family: father, mother and children. The proposed legislation is meant to reconcile lifting the iniquity imposed on women, protecting children's rights and safeguarding men's dignity.

Would any of you tolerate seeing his family, wife or children being thrown out of their homes into the street or his daughter or sister being ill-treated?

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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