Friday, October 22, 2010

More on moudawana.

A poster describing moudawana reforms in Arabic, Tashelheit and French

Yesterday we organized what likely was my last event here in the village, welcoming Tafoukt Souss, a women's rights association in the nearby city of Agadir, for an afternoon discussion of Morocco's relatively new moudawana laws. You might remember me mentioning moudawana a few times before. It's an issue close to my heart here, a long campaign that has produced laws giving Moroccan women far more rights in marriage, family, property and divorce.

The average woman here knows about the reforms, but often doesn't know what they specifically govern. A few brief highlights:

* Both women and men must be 18 to marry legally. (There are exceptions, but the girl and her parents are supposed to agree.)
* A woman can conduct her own marriage contract, without approval of a male relative.
* The legal requirement that a woman must obey her husband has been eliminated.
* The division of marital property is to be determined by a written contract between the wife and husband.
* Polygamy is allowed only if both the first wife and a judge authorize it.
* Divorce can be made official only in front of a judge (a husband can no longer simply say, "I divorce you," and leave a woman without a home or money)
* A mother with custody of her children has a right to housing in the event of divorce.

Zahara and Khadija fielding questions.

Khadija and Zahara, our two new friends from Tafoukt Souss (it means "sun of the south" in Tashelheit, the local indigenous, pre-Arabic language), are simply my newest heroes here. Forget your assumptions about Moroccan or Muslim women being submissive or second-class. This duo is sassily passionate about educating all women about their rights and responsibilities as full citizens and marriage partners. They were relaxed, confident and funny ~ and they brought out all of these qualities in my small crowd of sometimes shy women and girls, who quickly opened up and had an intimate conversation about their changing roles in their changing world.

After the event, Khadija, Zahara and I went home with Saadia, one of my favorite women in the village, who is holding together her household just fine without the deadbeat who left her after she gave birth to their third daughter (no sons). She wants to get a divorce but can't get the necessary papers. Thanks to this convergence of the right connections and the right information at the right time, she now has access to a legal support network.

Saadia, by the way, is a wedding consultant. She does the bride's hairdoes, rents out the expensive gowns that must be changed at least half a dozen times at a typical wedding, and also rents the hardware ~ the gaudily ornate thrones the bride and groom sit on, stoically, for upwards of seven or eight hours, late into the night. She insisted I pose with the goods, and when I asked, "Where's the groom?" everyone laughed and cried out, "You tell us!"  

No, things are not yet pefect for women here, the road to equality is a long one (just as it has been and continues to be in America). But progress is being made, and I'm encouraged by the strength, perseverance and outright confidence of those on the front lines, new heroes like Khadija and Zahara ... and all of the local women who take the time and initiative to educate themselves and have the courage to think of themselves and their roles in new ways.

1 comment:

william said...

Nice chair., but my kitties would do a number on it.

Are you going to train a replacement for your village?