Hundreds Of Moroccan Women Take To The Streets To Demand Gender Equality

CREDIT: AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar

About 800 Moroccan protesters, most of whom were women, flooded the streets of the capital city on Sunday to demand their government implement a portion of the constitution that guarantees gender equality.

The section of the constitution in question, Article 19, states that “men and women have equal civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights and freedoms” and “the state shall work towards the establishment of parity between men and women.” But it hasn’t been fully implemented by Morocco’s Islamic leaders. So hundreds of NGOs have formed the Civil Coalition for the Application of Article 19 to push political leaders to follow through.

Protesters marched to the parliament building in Rabat this weekend, brandishing banners demanding a “comprehensive review of all discriminatory laws,” “women’s safety in public places,” and “equality as a right, not a privilege.”

Violence against women is a widespread problem in Morocco. A 2011 national study found that about 63 percent of women in Morocco between the ages of 18 and 64 had been victims of some form of violence during the previous year. According to that study, over half of those acts of violence were committed by a victim’s husband — but marital rape isn’t recognized as a crime. At the beginning of this year, the kingdom finally repealed an outdated penal code that allowed rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victims.

Fawzia El-Asouli, who coordinated the Civil Coalition, believes the Moroccan government is “stalling in the application of laws that protect women from violence and discrimination.” Last month, her group launched a petition demanding the full implementation of Article 19 that has garnered over a thousand signatures.

According to a recent poll, Morocco is one of several North African nations that are less receptive to policies to promote women’s equality. Although support for gender equality is growing across the continent, only about half of Moroccan residents favor giving women the same opportunities as men.

The issue of sexual violence has also sparked massive protests in India, where several high-profile gang rapes have made international headlines. And women have recently taken to the streets in Spain, where conservative politicians are poised to severely roll back reproductive rights.