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Women demand expanded rights in Algeria, Morocco

By Mouna Sadek in Algiers and Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia– 19/03/10

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Women's groups throughout the Maghreb are pushing to change national Family Codes, rejecting current legislation as insufficient and demanding greater freedom and protection for females across the board.

In Algeria, a number of women's organisations are leading the fight to change Algeria's two-decades-old Family Code. Activists have criticised the code's restrictions on divorce and its guardianship rules for women who want to marry.

"Girls whose mothers were dead have had great difficulty marrying because their fathers do not wish to recognise them. There have been numerous cases and this situation is unacceptable," Women's rights activist Cherifa Kheddar said.

Kheddar has launched a nation-wide campaign called Kif kif devant la loi ("All the same in the eyes of the law") to educate rural women on their rights under the Algerian constitution.

Also in the current code, abusive husbands may have to pay if their wives choose to leave under khol'e rules. Ferroudja Moussaoui, a member of the women's group Amusnaw, criticized other aspects of the code.

"Polygamy is still legal where a marriage has been consummated. The marriage of minors is indirectly legalised," she said.

Activists dismissed the 2005 amendments to the Family Code, saying government officials chose to pander to the more conservative elements of society at the expense of an improved legal status for women.

The main advance of the 2005 reforms was the secularisation of the Family Code by removing all mention of sharia from the text, Moussaoui said.

"Previously we didn't have the right to talk about the Family Code, on the grounds that we were touching something sacred," said Moussaoui, adding that the Family Code does nothing to protect the dignity of Algerian women.

Louisa Hanoune, the first-ever female president of the Workers' Party (PT), called Saturday (March 13th) for the Family Code to be repealed.

Solutions are needed that can "help women overcome the barriers that are imposed on them in all domains" so they can exercise their rights as full citizens, Hanoune said.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Morocco just celebrated the sixth anniversary of its landmark Moudawana law, which marked a sweeping expansion of women's rights.

Several provisions in Morocco's Family Code have yet to be adopted on a wide scale, however.

One reform enacted by the law introduced pre-nuptial agreements for couples preparing to marry. Spouses are entitled to sign a document detailing the property they own and how it should be divided should the couple divorce, according to Article 49 of the Moroccan Moudawana.

Notaries public, or adouls, are also required to advise both parties of the provisions at the time that the marriage is solemnised.

Activists say that local notaries are ignoring the new laws.

"Adouls are not advising new couples of these provisions," said Fatima Maghnaoui, an advocate of women's rights. "When a woman does ask for this document to be signed, a dim view is taken of her."

According to statistics from the Ministry of Justice, only 15.5% of couples who married in 2009 signed the documents, a drop of 22.2% from the number of documents signed in 2008.

As it stands, Maghnaoui said, ignorance of the law means women do not stand up for their rights while men now hesitate to marry for fear of losing their property.

Fatima Moustaghfir, who serves as both a lawyer and MP, believes the law is necessary to further entrench women's rights in Moroccan society.

"Women must have recourse to the courts, even those who do not work, to assert their rights," she told Magharebia.

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    Guegonda 2015-1-9

    Indeed, women also have their rights in society.


  2. Anonymous thumb

    امل 2012-4-15

    Please restore back the right of polygamy! Girls have become spinsters and men have become scarce.


  3. Anonymous thumb

    Kicat 2011-2-14

    Leave this man, he is bad person with broken core. You wouldn't get such a bad treatment from European guy. Here police would put him in prison for all the harm he made. He is unfaithful and you can claim divorce on this ground. How you can tolerate such an abusive way of life?! It's shocking to me as European woman. Speak to your family, make he ashamed by disclosing his actions to the others. And get rid of him. Next time look for a decent man with "no records" as this type of male always find a way to justify own cruelty. Unfortunately it's only cultural thing.


  4. Anonymous thumb

    Anonymous 2011-1-13

    I am a SA lady married to an Algerian man, he is very abusive, both mentally and physically. He isolates me from my friends&family. Leaves me for days/weeks even and then comes back home as if nothing is wrong. If I am not home when he phones he accuses me of having affairs. He tells me I lie all the time and want other men. I love him dearly but cannot put my son (from an SA man) through this. He married me knowing I have a history but still treats me very badly and blames me for it. He gets me to believe that I am a bad women (he considers a barlady, I am a business women - a better women than I am). His talks bad about me to his friends so that they will stand by him and take pity on him when he leaves me. Blaming me for everything. I have tried to change my 'ways' and have tried to do everything he says but he just keeps trying to control my every move. I really love him but dont know if I can continue with this marraige. I dont know if he will ever change. I cannot become a hermit and sit at home while he disappears for weeks, I know he is sleeping with other women as when he comes home, his sex habits have changed! He refused to wear a condom as he is my husband. He even moved in with another women whilst we were married and blamed me as I made him angry and do not respect him. He has never worked when he is with me and tells everybody that he supports my family. He says he doesnt trust me because I am a liar and I make him stupid. Who is the stupid one! Only me for loving him and staying with him. I know he is the one lying and having extra marital affairs and projecting this on me. He also disappears and takes all the money and leaves me with no money so I cant visit friends or family. Anyone else have this problem? Does it and can it get better? Is there hope?


  5. Anonymous thumb

    Ausci Tizen 2010-4-5

    April 5th 2010. Hello, I have a sister (53years old) in Algiers, Algeria, under stressful situation created by her husband who is going out with another women (28 year old) after 25 years of marriage with 3 children (24, 23 and 10). I would like to have a recommended list of successful lawyers in Algiers to consider the case and explain to me the specifics of the Algerian Laws regarding the “Code de La Famille”, and help my sister clarify the choices to make to resolve this difficult situation. I would really appreciate any recommendations, links to GOOD LAWERS SPECIALIZING IN FAMILY PROBLEMS WHEN THE WIFE IS UNDERGOING TERRIBLE THREATS, PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE, INJUSTICE!)


  6. Anonymous thumb

    ADEL NOURI 2010-3-29

    Hello- I am a divorced Algerian living in Algeria. I have sole custody of my children by the Algerian courts’ ruling. I got permission to unite my family and a long-term visa for my children. I received authorisation to send my children away from Algeria from the Algerian consulate in Pantoise. My children thus went to France completely legally. Today, I learned that I have had kidnapping charges pinned on me in Algeria. What should I do so that I do not go to prison? Please, help me. –A mother in distress.


  7. Anonymous thumb

    الطيب 2010-3-20

    It is nice to protect woman against violence, against all forms and shapes of abuse. This can only be achieved through the financial independence from man by providing jobs to women, encourage income-generating women projects especially in rural area and marginalized neighbourhoods. Yes there are women capable of winning the challenge. But who will help them and integrate them in the economic tissue? They badly need a dignified life, to get rid of humiliation and contempt. They must be educated about their rights, help them overcome obstacles imposed on them. This can only be achieved by creating cells or encouraging women associations working in this field.


  8. Anonymous thumb

    جلال الدين افغاني 2010-3-19

    Salam alikum. Implement the Islamic Sharia servants of God! Enough humour and absurdity! Oh women, you have broken our heads!