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Family Code in Morocco. State Feminism or Democracy?
Paper to be presented at the 2nd ECPR Graduate Conference, Barcelona, August 26, 2008
Please do not quote without permission

Emanuela Dalmasso
University of Turin emanuela.dalmasso@libero.it

The paper aims to analyse the new Family code in Morocco considered as a controversial issue of the democratisation process. First weaddress the analysis of relations between tribal system and national identity to explain the promulgation of the first Family code. Afterwards we focus on the role played by Moroccan civil society, especially the feminist movement, in the processes leading up to the 1993 and the 2004 reforms. We analyse the crucial moment of the latest reform in a double perspective: the transition to democracy andthe political dynamics. The new Family code in a way improves women’s rights but on the other hand it was the result of a massive use of the King’s constitutional prerogatives which means that the government was completely marginalized. Furthermore analysing the review processes in Morocco means to point out the clash between who prompt for a radical reform and who consider a secularist code asthe umpteenth granting to the imperialism of the West. Exploring how these approaches are constructed do not only expose the diverging ways to conceive Moroccan society but especially the diverging strategies adopted by the society to cope with its political system.

Gender, Democratization, Africa, Civil Society, Islam.

In Moroccan history there are two dates: 16 May1930 and 16 May 2003, on the first a struggle began and on the second a struggle ended; both are strictly related to the power struggle, but in both cases the detonator was the issue of Code of Personal Status (Code de statut personnel, CSP). The correlation between the impact CSP and the women’s possibility to get into the public sphere, and so their real capacity to play a role in the developmentof their country, has finally been recognised by the socio-political Moroccan actors1. In 2004 the CSP has been changed, but nevertheless some actors of the civil society claim for further reforms. In order to understand the issue of CSP it could be interesting to analyse the process which led to the promulgation of the first Code. The process of state formation and the relationship betweennational identity and women are the key issues which should be analysed in order to understand the beginning of the journey of women’s rights in Morocco. The development of a feminist movement in Morocco and the analysis of its strategy until the latest reform could clarify not only the women’s rights issue but the specificity of Moroccan political system. In a closed political system and in a verydifficult economic crisis, when men find in their domination on women a kind of compensation2, Moroccan women have found the way to express their demands and obtain a reform of CSP. Nevertheless the positive effects of the new code, which actually improves women’s rights, may divert the attention from the procedures used to emend the previous law. In fact the reform was the result of a massive use ofthe King’s constitutional prerogatives which means that the other political actors were completely marginalized. A democratic implementation has been obtained in a non-democratic way, and at the same time the struggle over the reform has shown a range of diversified strategies adopted by different political actors. An analysis of these aspects could clarify the reform of CSP which is a meaningfulevent for Morocco and give some more elements in order to understand whether the new code can represent a step toward a more democratic Morocco or not.

The process of state formation in Morocco
After independence, the Moroccan state codified the family law retaining, in a more formalised and concise way, the prescription of Maliki law, that has historically prevailed in the Maghrib region....
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