I found this article particularly interesting as I am fascinated by the role of women in Arab society and culture. Moroccan society seems to be unsure of the role women should play. King Muhammad has certainly supported womens’ rights throughout his reign as king. Women enjoy more freedom than they did prior to 1999. This is evident in the workplace where women have begun to enter professions normally reserved for men. Women in Morocco can serve as pilots, judges and even murshidat (religious preachers). Traditionally the role of murshidat has been strictly reserved for men. Morocco is one of the only Muslim countries where women can serve in this role. While women in Morocco can pursue a wide array of professions, a recent UNICEF study indicated that Moroccan women make 40% less than men with similar degrees and positions.
I found it surprising that the author notes that an increasing number of Moroccan women are wearing the hijab (headscarf/veil). One reason the author gives for this shift is post 9/11 backlash against Muslims. In Morocco, the hijab is not a symbol of oppression. Women who chose to wear the veil perceive themselves as modern, educated and even emancipated. The streets of Morocco are filled with women wearing modern, western-style clothing and women covered in the traditional hijab. Both styles of clothing are deemed socially acceptable.
The structure of the Moroccan family has also evolved to mirror the times. In the sixties, the divorce rate began to rise in Morocco until it reached 50% in the eighties. Divorce rates remained elevated until enforcement of a new family code in 2004. The new family code, sponsored by King Muhammad VI, forces husbands to pay alimony to their ex-wives and helps to guarantee fair treatment of women after a divorce. Before 2004, women could be left in dire economic situations following a divorce. I think that the treatment and view of women in Moroccan society has greatly improved in recent years. This change has been largely catalyzed by King Muhammad VI’s policies that support gender equality. Women in Morocco exhibit many more freedoms than the majority of women in the Arab world. With this said, there is room for improvement and Moroccan employers need to address the startling pay discrepancy between men and women.