Has Morocco’s ‘Family Code’ shown how gender equality can coexist with Islam in the courts? | PRI
Earlier this month, America Abroad Media focused its monthly radio show on “Understanding Islamic Feminism,” broadcasting an hour-long program for which PRI “[traveled] the world to examine the meaning of Islamic feminism and meet with women activists who are working for change.” Among the countries visited was Morocco, where correspondent Jake Warga took a closer look at Morocco’s moudawana, or Family law:
According to Nadia Sonneveld, a legal anthropologist studying Morocco’s implementation of Moudawana in rural populations, the new family code is quite revolutionary compared to the old one.
“Morocco has one of the most progressive family law codes, except for Tunisia,” she says. In Egypt, for example, the wife has a legal obligation to be obedient to her husband.
“And that means she must ask for his permission to leave the house. For work or to buy groceries, she should, legally speaking, ask for his permission,” Sonneveld says.
Warga spoke to a Moroccan judge about Morocco’s evolving legal system:
Judge Mohammed Zerda is president of the family court division in Tangier. There are ten judges in his court — three male, and seven female. When asked if that makes a difference, he says, “This is simple, there’s absolutely no difference between female judges and male judges. We all went through the same schooling and same education and every judge must be neutral.”
There are a few sources a judge in Morocco can reference when making a decision: First is the Moudawana. Then there’s the Maliki school of jurisprudence, which relies on the Quran and the hadiths, or the reported sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. The Quran is seen as the direct word from God — it’s divine and cannot be changed or questioned. The hadiths, on the other hand, were collected by men, so they’re open to debate. Judge Zerda looks at both sources when deciding a case. But he sometimes has to go to the last source — that gray area between what’s written and local customs…[Full Story]