Appreciation, Awareness, and Action on the Status of Women
Appreciation, Awareness and Action on the Status of Women in Morocco
On the Transatlantic Leadership Seminar 2014 (TLS), we had a dinner discussion on the status of women in Arab societies with Soumya Naâmane Guessous, a Moroccan sociologist and Muslim feminist. This let to challenging exchanges within the cohort and I questioned myself how open we are towards the other.
Morocco has ratified international instruments of human rights and rights agreements. Steps such as the amendment of the family law have been taken, which has led to greater effectiveness in dealing with domestic violence complaints. Women have equal access to the legal system and don’t need prior authorization from the court. The penal code was reformed and heavier penalties on inflicting harm upon wives are allowed. It is also possible to waive professional confidentiality agreements in cases of violence and to report incidents. In 2008 there was a ban on discrimination against women. We also learned that in Morocco verbal violence is known widely.
In 2012 Bassima Hakkaoui, Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development, acknowledged that six million women have suffered physical or verbal violence, more than half caused by spouses. The Moroccan state planning commission 2013 published that nearly 9 % of women have been physically subjected to sexual violence at least once. 25 % of women had been affected by sexual violence of a physical or psychological nature and 40 % among 18- to 24-year-olds.
Let’s be shocked for a good reason, but what about women in Europe and the U.S.?
Beginning 2014 the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights published the study “Violence against women: an EU-wide survey” based on interviews with 42,000 women. 33% women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of fifteen, 8% of them in the past twelve months. Out of all women who have had a partner, 22% have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner since the age of fifteen.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, based in the U.S., in 2010 conducted 16,507 interviews that indicate that 18% of U.S. American women have been raped at some time in their lives. 45% women have experienced sexual violence other than rape. Every third woman has experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
The study conducted in Europe reveals that there are differences in countries, e.g. cultural acceptance to talk about experiences of violence against women. We see that gender equality could lead to higher levels of disclosure about violence against women. There seems to be evidence of a relation between offenders’ drinking and experiences of domestic violence. We also need to have a look at differences between countries on entire violent crime levels comparing them with data on violence against women.
A program by the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund (MDG-F) run in Morocco from 2008 – 2012 aimed to reduce gender-based violence against women, and offers strategies that are transferable:
1) mainstreaming of gender issues in national policies including the promotion of gender-sensitive planning, programming and budgeting processes;
2) establishment of multi-sectoral referral systems for women and girl victims of violence; creation of multi-functional spaces for empowering them; awareness-raising and education to promote a culture of equality.
Interestingly, on 1 August 2014 the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the so-called ‚Istanbul Convention’, is entered into force. Due to the convention governments that ratified it, have to take specific steps to oppose violence against women in all forms e.g. stalking, sexual harassment, domestic violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. It concentrates on: prevention, protection, prosecution, integrated policies and monitoring. In short: the availability of binding standards to improve the prevention of violence, the protection of victims and the prosecution of perpetrators as well as the monitoring to observe the effective implementation.
So far 14 out of 47 Council of Europe member states have ratified the Istanbul Convention like Austria, Denmark, Serbia and Spain. 22 states like Belgium, Croatia, Germany and Poland have signed it and in so indicated their political will. There are states that are showing no action on this at all. To date these are 11 states: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation. The convention is open for accession by states that are not Council of Europe members.
So who are we to judge while traveling without taking a look at the countries we are from? Violence, specially gender-based, against women is a grave human rights abuse all over the world.
The debate we had within the TLS 2014 group and other transatlantic exchanges help me to think about what I see, hear, experience and for all I learn again and again: appreciation, awareness and action!
Niombo Lomba, Head of Staff of the State Counselor for Civil Society and Civic Participation, is a 2003 Marshall Memorial Fellow and a participant of the 2014 Transatlantic Leadership Seminar.
‘Morocco Islamists under fire over women abuse bill’, Agence France-Presse, 12/05/2013
Beyond the law: Protecting Morocco’s women
Violence against women: an EU-wide survey. Main results
National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey – 2010 Summary Report
Program for the fight against gender-based violence through the empowerment of women and girls in Morocco
Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention)