Morocco: Morocco withdraws reservations to CEDAW

Magharebia / ADFM
The women's movement welcomed a move by Morocco to withdraw its reservations regarding the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.
Morocco has retracted its reservations on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), King Mohammed VI announced during a speech on Wednesday (December 10th), the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"Our reservations," the monarch said, "have become obsolete due to the advanced legislation that has been adopted by our country."

The long-awaited move drew praise from civil society; the women's movement had made repeated calls for officials to take the necessary steps to apply the convention in Morocco.

Professor and researcher Malika Benradi noted that Morocco ratified the convention in 1993 with reservations, refusing to enforce any clauses opposing national or Islamic law. For example, Benradi explained that Article 9 deals with the right of a mother to transmit her citizenship to her children; a form of discrimination that Morocco abandoned in 2007.

Article 16 states that both spouses are equal at the moment of, during, and after the dissolution of a marital union. For example, under Moroccan law, there is no true equality between the spouses in terms of providing for one's household, which is solely the husband's duty. Benradi noted that "the retraction of reservations allows for progress, but it is already being debated, particularly with regards to religious issues such as inheritance."

Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity Nouzha Skalli expressed her satisfaction with the King's message. In her view, the move confirms Morocco's desire to be forward-looking in terms of women's rights. She added that "the withdrawal of the country’s reservations coincided with a number of other plans launched by Morocco," and "the country is well on the way to becoming an upholder of human rights."

The Moroccan Human Rights Organisation likewise welcomed the move. "Arrangements need to be put in place to enforce this international convention," said the president of the organisation, Amina Bouayache. She added that "Morocco now finds itself in a new set of circumstances. Other initiatives must also be taken, in particular reforms to the constitution and domestic law regarding civil rights and other forms of equality."

Khadija Riyadi, president of the Moroccan Human Rights Association, commented, "The Family Code needs to be amended, especially with regards to those articles that discriminate against women." She added that examples of discrimination pertain to "marriage with foreign nationals, the fact that legal guardianship is always granted to a child's father, inheritance, and polygamy."

The president of the Union for Women’s Action, Nezha Alaoui, noted that in withdrawing its reservations, Morocco "has removed all barriers to the establishment of full equality between men and women in the areas of economic, social and political law."

The president of the Democratic Women's Rights League, Fouzia Assouli, said that "the move was a minor revolution in terms of establishing the principle of equality between men and women – a principle for which the women's movement has fought for many years."

However, not everyone was pleased with the king's announcement. Mustapha Ramid, head of the Justice and Development Party's group in parliament stated that issues pertaining to Islamic law cannot be replaced. "We cannot lift all reservations to the point of achieving total equality, because this point is governed by sharia."

17 December 2008

By Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat

Source: Magharebia