Calls for gender-equality in Moroccan inheritance law

Calls for gender-equality in Moroccan inheritance law
Women's rights activist Fouzia Assouli has called for gender equality in Morocco's inheritance law in a move likely to elicit controversy.
3 min read
16 January, 2016
Women's rights activist Fouzia Assouli calls for gender equality in inheritance law [Getty]

Fouzia Assouli is a prominent name in the contemporary women's movement of Morocco.

Almost never absent from any major issue relating to women's rights, in the often-heated debate about the status of women in Moroccan society, she has become both an influential and controversial voice.

Assouli's fame and infamy are both now likely to increase following her recent call for full gender equality in inheritance law.

Heading the Democratic League for Women's Rights [LDDF] in Morocco, Assouli has long focused her work on legal and social reform, promoting women's equality and rights amid fears of growing violent extremism.

Her recent calls for gender equality in inheritance law come on the cusp of loud calls for wide-ranging social and political reform particularly in the onset of the Arab Spring in 2011.

Women's rights in Morocco have however seen notable developments over the past decades.

In 2004, Moroccan women's rights groups hailed the government's adoption of a new family code as a big step forward.

Yet as Fouzia Assouli has since constantly pointed out, much of the old legal order remains untouched.

Now her focus is reforming Moroccan laws of inheritance.

This time, the LDDF has called for a review of inheritance law in Morocco, which Assouli feels subjects women to injustice.

Current inheritance law in Morocco states that men receive double the inheritance of their female relatives.

"We are fighting desperately to change mentalities to accept the idea that women are the other half of men," Assouli told The New Arab.

"The current inheritance laws lead to prejudice against the rights of women and strips them of their financial independence," she said.

Critically, Assouli argues the current status of the law perpetuates violence against women.

"Women who are in violent relationships cannot leave because they do not have an alternative shelter to stay in," Assouli said.

However, more conservative scholars and government officials have called Assouli's demands as an affront to both the constitution and the Islamic law that underpins laws of inheritance.

The religiously-conservative Moroccan Forum "Dignity for Human Rights" said that calls for gender equality in inheritance law is a both a challenge to Islamic law, and a contradiction of the constitution that states governance in Morocco must follow Islamic rulings.

For Assouli however there need be no contradiction.

"We call for equality in inheritance law and an urgent need to address this issue through a debate, far from religious aggravation or the use of religion to justify women's oppression," She said, "As religion is not in conflict with social justice."

Women's issues in Morocco have increasingly come to the forefront of political discourse.

Recently, activists registered outrage in an incident last year when two women were arrested and charged with "gross indecency" for wearing dresses in an open air market in Ineganze, a suburb of the southern city of Agadir.