Moroccan king boosts women's rights

Women in Morocco are to win greater marriage and divorce rights under reforms that King Muhammad claims will bring their status in line with the spirit of the Quran's teachings.

    King Muhammad IV says women are to be honoured, not humbled

    The minimum age for women to marry is to be raised from 15 to 18 to equal that of men, and women will get property rights in the marriage.

    Women will now be able to divorce their husbands, rather than just the other way round, and unlike now divorce will need a judge's approval.

    Muslim men will still be able to marry up to four wives, but for the first time polygamy will also need a judge's authorisation, in addition to the prior consent of the man's existing wives and wife-to-be.

    The King, who is the highest religious authority in Morocco, quoted The Prophet to justify his plans.

    "Make husband and wife jointly responsible for the family in keeping with the words of my ancestor the Prophet (Muhammad), 'Only an honourable man will honour them (women) and only an ignoble man will humble them'," the king told parliament at the opening of its autumn session.

    Shared property

    The new texts, which parliament is expected to approve, also guarantee for the first time the principle of sharing between husband and wife of property acquired during marriage.

    "Make husband and wife jointly responsible for the family in keeping with the words of my ancestor the Prophet (Muhammad), 'Only an honourable man will honour them (women) and only an ignoble man will humble them'"

    King Muhammad IV of Morocco

    After succeeding his father King Hassan in 1999, the now 40-year-old king said he was willing to overhaul the Moudawana, or family law.

    But when similar reforms were vaunted in 2000, Islamists organised a massive demonstration against the plan in Casablanca, attended by an estimated 200,000 marchers.

    Feminists staged a countermarch in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, that drew nearly as many participants.

    Symbolically, King Muhammad allowed pictures of his fiancée to be published for the first time in Moroccan history.

    He also initiated a quota system in last year's general elections guaranteeing 30 seats for women in the 325-member lower house of parliament.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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