The Human Impact

Divorce may be legal in Morocco, but it’s still controversial

March 25, 2013

By Maria Caspani

A veiled woman hails a cab late at night on a deserted road in Casablanca, Morocco. As the taxi takes off, the driver asks her what on earth she is doing out alone at such a late hour.

“I was working,” the woman responds as the disconcerted driver asks her whether her husband approves. “I’m divorced,” she says.

For a woman in Morocco, there are few situations that are worse than that of Khadija, the protagonist of “Camera/Woman”, a documentary about a divorced woman working as a camera operator who faces strong discrimination in her community and, ultimately, becomes estranged from her family.

Nine years after the reform of a family law allowed women to seek divorce, separation from their husbands remains a stigma for most Moroccan women, the documentary’s director, Karima Zoubir, told TrustLaw at the film’s screening at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London.

“Some men, when they know that a woman is divorced, they think she’s loose,” Zoubir said.

The 2004 reform of the law also raised the minimum age of marriage to 18 from 15 and made procedures for polygamy complicated.

However the reform has been dogged by Morocco’s conservative and predominantly male judges – who can rely on their own discretion in allowing minors to be married – and by a failure to adopt laws to ensure women have better protection from physical abuse.

Recently, the case of a teenage girl who killed herself by swallowing rat poison after being forced to marry the man who raped her, prompted calls for the amendment of a law that allows rapists to marry their victims in order to avoid prosecution.

When Zoubir met Khadija, she became interested in her story of both a divorcee and a camerawoman.

Filming wedding parties or other important life events became popular in Morocco in the 1990s as more and more families wanted to have memories of such events. But it wasn’t always desirable to have a male photographer or cameraman as they would often get drunk and harass women at the party, or only film or  take shots of a certain woman they liked, Zoubir said.

She said that some women working as camera operators at, for example, wedding and circumcision parties are the sole breadwinners in the family.

That was the case for Khadija who, after a long legal battle to obtain a divorce from her husband, was left alone to look after her young son, her mother and sister, and her brother.

The whole family opposed her working, especially because she often had to work at night to film parties that lasted until dawn.

After a particularly nasty argument with her brother that resulted in her and her son being kicked out of the house she’s paying rent for, Khadija sobbed desperately to her friends: “If he is the man of the house, why is he always asking me for money?”

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Khadija’s curse is the fact that hers is a night job. For Moroccan women, a day job is acceptable, Zoubir said. But working at night is considered shameful and often associated with prostitution.

“Casablanca is a cosmopolitan city but we still have this stigma for women who are alone at night,” Zoubir said.

But compared to other Arab countries, women in Morocco are very lucky, Zoubir said. “I can travel on my own without needing any permissions from men.”

Women in Morocco have been fighting to make their voice heard for years, she said. “Before 2004, it was very difficult for a woman to obtain a divorce – sometimes they had to buy it from their husbands.”

The family law has created “a new generation of divorced women for which Moroccan society is just not ready”, she said.

“This is about culture, not religion – because there is no problem in the religion about divorced women … A woman can marry as much as she wants.”

For Zoubir, whose father died when she was young and who considers herself lucky to have had a mother as head of the household, the Arab Spring didn’t bring much change to her home country.

“(In Morocco) women have been struggling for a long time and they have been long pushing for more freedom,” she said.

PHOTO: Women walk in the medina in Marrakesh July 12, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Comments
One comment so far | RSS Comments RSS

I do not agree with so much of this.

Islamically a Woman CAN ask for a divorce through Khula. As we have heard of so many times in Hadith, there are many examples. From women who dislike their husbands to women who have no choice but to leave. Islamic law is just, Sharia is fine. but the “muslims” who ruin it. If a woman is in an abusive marriage or unislamic marriage, and she has grounds for divorce the Islamic State, and Muslim Judge should Dissolve the marriage as it is not safe for her to remain in the marriage.

A woman should not ask for divorce without valid reason, as it is a fitna, So Morocco are not following Islam they want to be like the west. They have insulted Islamic Law and turned to the Kafir law to get “Justice”, They are sure to fail and be doomed by this, as Allahs law is just. And this sort of change in Law will only create more fitna and even Allahs wrath upon them.

I am Moroccan and each year I visit I see Islam taken a back seat in society and people adopting “french lifestyle” and by that I mean Secular life. Including how they socialise, how they marry and divorce and how they behave.

A woman should not work in the night time, OR travel alone. That is Islamic law. Nothing to do with Morocco. So are you saying that wedding photography is the only Job in the whole of Morocco? Actually you Will find an increase in demand for tailors Female tailors as most tend to be MEN! We need more female Drs, we need Nurses, we need tailors, we need carpet makers, bakers, etc etc Most of these roles you do not need a degree or diploma, just work experience and on the job training and most of these roles are filled by MEN. Men doing a womans jobs and women doing a mans job etc

This Article only affirms my deepest worries of Morocco. Islam being openly mocked and Open Disobedience to Allah.
More had changed for the worse, and I often am Ashamed to say I am Moroccan, nothing good has come out of Morocco for hundreds of years, Just fitna, fitna and more fitna. Authobillahi.

Allah rectify the affairs of the Muslims in Morocco and bring them back to Islam and to Islamic law, sharia.

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