Gender Equality in Morocco

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Flag of Morocco
Population (in Mil.) 32.52
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 95.98
Sex Ratio (m/f) 0.97
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.043478261
Fertility Rate 2.21
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.28
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 13.2
Women in Parliament (in %) 17
Human Development Index 130/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index 17/86
Gender Inequality Index 130/186
Gender Equity Index 143/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 89/128
Global Gender Gap Index /68
More information on variables

In the news

Social Institutions

Apart from a brief period as a French protectorate (1912 – 1956), Morocco has always been an independent, sovereign country.[1] Ruled by a constitutional monarchy, the current King Mohammed VI has introduced some moderate reforms since assuming the throne in 1999, although ultimate authority continues to rest with the monarch.[2] February and March 2011 saw mass street demonstrations in several cities across Morocco, demanding constitutional and democratic reforms, price controls, and an end to government corruption.[3] The king agreed to constitutional reform, and a new constitution was approved by referendum in July 2011.[4] Morocco is classed as a lower-middle income country by the World Bank.[5] This country note does not cover the situation of women in the disputed territory of Western Sahara (annexed by Morocco in 1975).[6]

The 2011 Constitution enshrines equality between women and men at article 19.[7] As a result of several reform measures undertaken following years of advocacy by women’s organisations including the introduction of a new Family Code (2004), Nationality Law (2007), Labour Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Law on Civil Registration, as well as the subsequent amending of several other laws to remove discriminatory language, in regard to legal rights, the situation for women in Morocco has improved significantly.[8] Even though applying the new legislation is taking time and progress is sometimes stalled by discriminatory attitudes and inconsistent enforcement,[9] Morocco is now amongst North African countries with the most improved laws for women’s rights. However, in its 2008 Concluding Observations on Morocco, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) noted that, in addition to economic factors, traditional discriminatory practices and strong stereotypical attitudes regarding appropriate gender roles and behavior continue to limit women’s educational, economic, and political opportunities and their capacity to enjoy their human rights.[10] Women remain under-represented in political life, and in positions of leadership in other spheres, and in regard to employment, are concentrated in low-skilled jobs, with low pay and poor working conditions.[11] Women living in rural areas face particular obstacles, particularly in regard to access education, healthcare, and public services, as well as to basic amenities such as clean water and electricity.[12] Morocco ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1993, but has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol.[13] Morocco lifted all the reservations that it had previously held on CEDAW in 2008.[14] The country has not signed or ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.[15] Morocco is ranked 130th in the 2011 Human Development Index (of 187 countries), with a score of 0.582.[16] The country’s score under the Gender Inequality Index is 0.510 (104 out of 146 countries).[17] According to the 2011 Global Gender Gap index, Morocco is ranked in 129th place, out of 135 countries (score: 0.5804).[18]

Discriminatory Family Code

Morocco’s new Family Code, adopted in 2004, grants women equal rights within the family, although some discrimination still exists.[19] Husbands and wives now have reciprocal rights on a number of issues, including management of the household, childrearing, family planning, and legal cohabitation.[20]

The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years for both men and women (it was previously 15 years for women). Marriage under that age now requires permission from a judge.[21] Yet early marriage continues to be observed, particularly in rural areas: national statistics from 2004 estimated that the number of girls between 15 and 19 years of age who were married, divorced, separated or widowed was 11.07%.[22] The free consent of both spouses is now required by law and women no longer need permission from a male guardian to marry.[23] However, it remains illegal for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man.[24]

The new Family Code does not explicitly prohibit polygamy, but rather includes measures that make it very complicated. Husbands who want to marry another wife must obtain a judge’s permission and provide documentary evidence of their financial situation. They must also attest that all their spouses will be treated equally, and that their existing wife / wives have given their assent.[25] The number of new polygamous marriages has decreased rapidly since the reforms were introduced.[26] 4% of married women questioned for the 2003-2004 DHS reported that they were in a polygamous marriage.[27]

Under Morocco’s new Family Code, mothers and fathers share parental authority and have the same rights and responsibilities.[28] The new code eradicated the concept of repudiation, i.e. a husband’s right to unilaterally divorce his wife, and the 2004 reform gave Moroccan women the right to divorce on the same grounds as men.[29] In addition, divorce can no longer be authorised by a notary public but must be granted by a court and only after a judge leads the couple through a conciliation process.[30] Under the new Family Code, the mother is the first choice for custody of children, and divorced women no longer automatically forfeit custody of their children if they remarry or choose to live in a different town.[31] However, in such circumstances, fathers can be awarded custody of their children from the age of seven years, if they so request.[32] Once children reach the age of 15 years, they can choose the parent with whom they wish to live.[33] Morocco further amended the Family Code in 2007 by passing the Nationality Code, which granted to Moroccan women married to foreigners the rights to pass on their citizenship to their children. Previously, only fathers possessed this right.[34]

The 2004 reform did not remove the inequality in inheritance rights. Daughters still inherit only half the share passed on to sons. Moreover, if there are no sons, daughters do not inherit all of their parents’ estate; part of it is distributed amongst aunts and uncles.[35] In effect, the reform changed only the inheritance rules for grandchildren. In cases where the mother is deceased, children can now inherit property from their maternal grandparents.[36]

Restricted Physical Integrity

Rape is a criminal offence in Morocco, with sentences of up to 5 years imprisonment.[37] Marital rape is not recognised as a criminal offence in Morocco.[38] In addition, under the Criminal Code, it is possible for a rapist to escape imprisonment if he agrees to marry his victim.[39]

There is no specific legislation in place in Morocco to protect women from domestic violence, although general provisions against assault included in the Criminal Code can be applied.[40] In 2002, the Moroccan government announced a national strategy to eliminate violence against women; according to the 2005 report to the CEDAW Committee, administrative authorities from all concerned government agencies are making concerted efforts to address the issue.[41] Morocco’s Employment Code was recently revised and now recognises sexual harassment in the workplace as an offence, as well as nondiscrimination in employment and salaries.[42] Strong societal pressure to conform to beliefs around personal and family honour make it very difficult for women to report instances of sexual violence and harassment, according to a recent report published by Freedom House.[43] Up-to-date data were unavailable, but in 2008, the police recorded 1130 reports of rape.[44]

Since the introduction of the national strategy to eliminate violence against women, the 2006 report to the CEDAW Committee states that victims of domestic violence have better protection and more opportunity to leave the family home due to government initiatives to create new institutions such as a special violence investigation unit within the police force and shelters to protect battered women.[45] They also have easier access to divorce; the time required for divorce proceedings has been reduced to six months.[46] However, according to a 2010 report by Freedom House, if women seeking help from the police are unable to prove that they have been abused, they are usually returned home, leaving them in a worse situation than before the complaint was filed.[47] This acts as a powerful deterrent against reporting domestic abuse.[48] Nearly half of the population considers it acceptable for men to beat their wives in certain circumstances. Survey data from the 2003-2004 DHS support this reality; when given a list of five reasons why a man might be justified in beating his wife, nearly 64% of women agreed with at least one reason.[49] Data as to the number of women experiencing domestic violence was unavailable. According to the Freedom House report, so-called ‘honour killings’ do occur in Morocco, but are less prevalent than in other parts of the region. Police are often reluctant to intervene, seeing such crimes as a family matter.[50] However, rather than removing the clause in the criminal code that allowed men convicted of assaulting or murdering his wife if he caught her in the act of adultery to receive a lighter sentence, this has been extended to female defendants accused of assaulting or murdering adulterous husbands.[51] Extra-marital sex remains a criminal offence for women, although cases are very seldom prosecuted.[52] There is no evidence to suggest that female genital mutilation is practised in Morocco.[53] Abortion is legal in cases where the woman’s mental or physical health is in danger.[54] Women in Morocco have the legal right to use contraception, and to access information about family planning and reproductive health.[55] Mobile health clinics supply contraceptives to remote rural areas.[56] Knowledge of contraception among women in Morocco is nearly universal,[57] and usage rates are also quite high. According to the 2003-2004 DHS, 63% of women reported that they currently used a method of contraception as a form of family planning; 54.8% used a modern method.[58] However, contraception was also seen primarily as a woman’s responsibility; just 3% of men reported using a modern method of contraception.[59] Despite relatively high discontinuation rates (43% for all methods[60] ), the overall level of unmet need for family planning services was only 10%.[61]

Son Bias

The 2003-2004 DHS found that 91.2% of girls and 86.8% of boys under the age of two had received all their basic vaccinations.[62] There was virtually no difference in malnutrition rates (very slightly higher for boys), and under-five mortality rates were higher for boys than for girls.[63] This does not indicate bias towards sons in regard to early childhood care. A 2004 research report by the Understanding Children’s Work project (UCW) found that boys were 4% more likely to be engaged in paid work outside the home than girls, while girls were 26% more likely to be engaged in unpaid domestic work within the home.[64] This would indicate bias against daughters in regard to the allocation of domestic work. According to UNICEF, enrolment and attendance rates are slightly lower for girls than for boys in Morocco (at secondary level, 36% of girls and 39% of boys attend).[65] The UCW report found that in rural areas, girls were 33% less likely to attend school than boys.[66] Overall, this would indicate preference towards educating sons over daughters. The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.97.[67]

There is no evidence to suggest that Morocco is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

Restricted Resources and Entitlements

By law, Moroccan women have the same ownership rights as men,[68] but tradition often limits those rights. Despite a favourable legal framework, women’s access to land is often restricted, particularly in rural areas, and few women own land.[69] Where they do, it is often managed by male relatives.[70] Women are legally entitled to access to property other than land and to manage such property as they wish. Under Morocco’s standard matrimonial system, spouses retain their own property.[71] Women in Morocco have difficulty obtaining credit from traditional banks on the same conditions as men. In response, the government has launched numerous initiatives to support women’s entrepreneurship, including numerous trainings, income-generating projects and micro-credit initiatives targeted at women.[72]

Restricted Civil Liberties

Women’s freedom of movement is guaranteed under the Constitution on the same footing as men. According to laws implemented in 1994, women do not need their husbands’ authorisation to obtain a passport or travel, while under the new Family Code, all previous restrictions on women’s freedom of movement within the country have been removed.[73] The new law states that spouses should jointly choose where they will live as a couple.[74] Freedom of speech, assembly and association are not always respected in Morocco.[75] NGOs are able to operate relatively freely, though, and there is a vibrant women’s movement in Morocco; many women have sought positions of leadership within this movement, rather than in the political arena, which until recently remained almost totally male dominated.[76] Women’s rights NGOs are active in promoting changes to discriminatory legislation and women’s political participation, providing services to and advocating on behalf of victims of gender-based violence, and promoting literacy.[77] In its 2008 Concluding Observations on Morocco, the CEDAW Committee noted its concern at the role played by the Moroccan media in perpetuating negative and limiting stereotypes regarding gender roles in society.[78] In a 2010 report into women’s rights by Freedom House, the author of the Morocco chapter noted that the Moroccan media consistently portray women only as homemakers and mothers, fail to use gender-sensitive language, and downplay women’s achievements in the public sphere.[79] Women have had the same right to vote and stand for election as men since independence in 1956.[80] A 2002 revision of the Organic Law on the House of Representatives reserved thirty seats for women, via an agreement to place names of the national lists of political parties and not through a strict quota.[81] Following elections in 2007 and 2009, there are 34 women in the 345-seat Assembly of Representatives and six women in the 270-seat Assembly of Councillors, respectively.[82] A November 2008 agreement between the government and the decision-making structures of the major political parties stipulated that 12% of local council seats (equaling about 3,000 seats) would hereafter be reserved for women. Prior to this, less than 1% of these seats were held by women. More than 20,000 women ran for these offices in the June 2009 elections, with 3,421 winning seats. Twelve then became mayors and other local leaders through indirect election. In addition, the Prime Minister’s government includes three female ministers and two female secretaries of state.[83] A 2007 Pew survey found that 65% of those polled believed men and women to be equally capable as political leaders.[84] A World Values survey, also from 2007, asked a similar question without the option to rate them equally, and found that 58% of respondents believed that men made better political leaders than women.[85] Art 115 the new constitution (2011) apparently specifies proportional representation of women magistrates in the Conseil Supérieur du Pouvoir Judiciaire. Morocco offers 14 weeks of maternity leave at 100% of a woman’s wages, payable from a national social security fund.[86] The Labour Code includes 3 days paternity leave at full pay (Art 269). A pregnant woman is also entitled to an additional year of unpaid leave if so desired.[87] It is not clear how well these maternity protections cover women who work in the informal sector and who are not paid cash wages; for example, 92% of employed women in rural areas work in the agricultural sector.[88]


  1. BBC (n.d.) ‘Morocco profile’, BBC News, (accessed 29 November 2011); Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2011) The World Factobook: Morocco, online edition, Washington, D.C.: CIA, (accessed 29 November 2011)
  2. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2011) The World Factobook: Morocco, online edition, Washington, D.C.: CIA, (accessed 29 November 2011)
  3. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2011) The World Factobook: Morocco, online edition, Washington, D.C.: CIA, (accessed 29 November 2011); BBC (n.d.) ‘Morocco profile’, BBC News, (accessed 29 November 2011)
  4. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2011) The World Factobook: Morocco, online edition, Washington, D.C.: CIA, (accessed 29 November 2011)
  5. World Bank (n.d.) ‘Data: Morocco’, Washington, D.C.: World Bank, (accessed 27 November 2011)
  6. BBC (n.d.) ‘Morocco profile’, BBC News, (accessed 29 November 2011)
  7. Gouvernement du Royaume du Maroc (2011) ‘Texte intégral du projet de nouvelle Constitution’, Rabat: Gouvernement du Royaume du Maroc, (accessed 29 November 2011)
  8. CEDAW (2008) Concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Morocco, CEDAW/C/MAR/CO/4, CEDAW, New York, p.2
  9. Erlanger, S. and S. Mekhennet (18 August 2009), “Family Code Gets Nudge, but Women Seek a Push,” New York Times, available from, accessed 5 April 2010.
  10. CEDAW (2008) Concluding comments of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Morocco, CEDAW/C/MAR/CO/4, CEDAW, New York, p.4
  11. Reference 10, Pp.5-6
  12. Reference 10, p.7
  13. United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2010): Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified. - CEDAW: (accessed 22 November 2011) - Optional Protocol: (accessed 22 November)
  14. Sadiqi, Fatima (2010) ‘Morocco’, in Sanja Kelly and Julia Breslin (eds.), Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress and Resistance, New York / Lanham: Freedom House / Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Ltd., p.316
  15. African Union (2010) ‘List of countries which have signed, ratified/acceded to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa’ (as of 27 August 2010).
  16. United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at, accessed 29 February 2012.p.129
  17. Reference 16 p.141
  18. World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at, accessed 2 March 2012 p.11
  19. Decree No. 1-04-22 of 3 February 2004 promulgating Law No. 70-03 on the Family Code, ‘La Moudawana’ in Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2006), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Morocco, Combined Third and Fourth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/MAR/4, CEDAW: New York, NY, p. 6.
  20. Articles 51 and 54 (on the duties of parents towards their children) of the Family Code in Reference 20 p. 59.
  21. Articles 19 through 21 of the Family Code in Reference 20, p. 58.
  22. Ministère de la Santé [Maroc], ORC Macro, et Ligue des États Arabes (2005), Enquête sur la Population et la Santé Familiale (EPSF) 2003-2004, Ministère de la Santé et ORC Macro: Calverton, Maryland, USA., Table 6.1.
  23. Articles 4, 10, 11 and 25 of the Family Code in Reference 20, p. 58.
  24. Reference 14, p.318
  25. Reference 14, p.319
  26. Articles 40 through 46 of the Family Code in REFERENCE 20, p. 59.
  27. Reference 22, table 6.5
  28. Article 51 of the Family Code in Reference 20 20, p.59.
  29. Article 98 of the Family Code in Reference 20, pp. 59-60.
  30. Article 121 and Chapter II, Title Six, Book Two of the Family Code in Reference 20, p. 59.
  31. Reference 14, p.320
  32. Reference 14, p.320
  33. Article 166 of the Family Code in REFERENCE 20, p. 60
  34. Article 6 of Moroccan Nationality law, amended 18 Jan. 2007 in Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (2007), p. 14.
  35. Articles 342 through 344 of the Family Code in Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (2010)
  36. Global Rights (n.d.) The Moroccan Family Code (Moudawana) of February 5, 2004: An unofficial English translation of the original Arab text; available from (accessed 5 April 2010), p. 6; Reference 20, P. 56.
  37. Reference 14, P.316
  38. Reference 10, P.5; Reference 14, P.316
  39. Reference 10, P.5
  40. Reference 10, P.4; Reference 14, P.316
  41. Reference 20, pp. 63-65
  42. Article 40 of Decree No. 1-03-194 of 14 Rejeb (11 September 2003) promulgating Law No. 65-99 relating to the Labour Code (hereafter ‘Labour Code’) in REFERENCE 20, p. 42; Ministry of Finance [Morocco] (2009) p. 116.
  43. Reference 14, p.316
  44. US Department of State (2011), 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Morocco, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC, (accessed 29 November 2011)
  45. Reference 20, Pp. 9, 63-65.
  46. Reference 20, p. 60.
  47. Reference 14, p.316
  48. Reference 14, p.316
  49. Reference 22, Table 3.11.
  50. Reference 14, p.316
  51. Article 418 of the Criminal Code, amended 2003, in Reference 14, p.315
  52. Article 490 of the Criminal Code, in Reference 14, p.315
  53. Reference 14, p.331
  54. UN (2011) ‘World Abortion Policies 2011’, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York.
  55. Reference 44
  56. Reference 44
  57. Reference 22, Table 5.1
  58. Reference 22, Table 5.4.
  59. REFERENCE 20, p. 43
  60. Reference 22, Table 5.12.
  61. Reference 22, Table 7.3.
  62. Reference 22, Table 9.2
  63. Reference 22, Table 10.8, 11.4
  64. Understanding Children’s Work Project (UCW) (2004) ‘Understanding Children’s Work in Morocco Report on child labour’, Rome: Understanding Children’s Work Project, An Inter-Agency Research Cooperation Project, ILO / UNICEF / World Bank, p.19
  65. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (n.d.) ‘Morocco – statistics’, (accessed 28 November 2011)
  66. Reference 64, p.34
  67. Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Fact Book: Sex Ratio, available at, accessed 14 March 2012
  68. Article 218 of the Family Code in Reference 20, p. 56
  69. Reference 14, p.323
  70. Reference 14, p.323
  71. Article 49 of the Family Code in Reference 20, pp. 56-57; United National Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (2005), Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Third Periodic Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant: Addendum: Morocco,E/1994/104/Add.29, ECOSOC: New York, NY, p. 16.
  72. Reference 20, pp. 47-49; Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (2007), Morocco: Country Gender Profile, JICA: Rabat, Morocco, p. 22.
  73. Reference 14, p.318
  74. Reference 20, p. 57
  75. Freedom House (2010) ‘Freedom in the World country reports: Morocco’, (accessed 29 November 2011)
  76. Reference 14, p.327
  77. Reference 44; Reference 14
  78. Reference 10, P.4
  79. Reference 14, P.332
  80. Reference 14, P.311
  81. Reference 20, pp. 23-24.
  82. Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) (2010), Women in Parliament: All Countries on National Parliaments, IPU: Geneva,
  83. US Department of State (2010), 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Morocco, US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Washington, DC
  84. Pew Research Center (2007), Global Attitudes Project: Spring 2007 Survey, Pew Research Center: Washington, DC., Question Q.43.
  85. World Values Survey (WVS) (2007), Selected Country/Sample: Morocco, World Values Survey, available, accessed 29 March 2010., Question V61.
  86. International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009), Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, ILO, Geneva, Switzerland, accessed 26 March 2010; Social Security Administration (SSA) (2009), pp. 133-134.
  87. Chapter II, Article 156 of the Decree No. 1-03-194 of 11 September 2003 promulgating Law No. 65-99 of the Labor Code in World Bank (2010), Women, Business, and the Law: Measuring Legal Gender Parity for Entrepreneurs and Workers in 128 Economies, World Bank: Washington, DC, p. 127.
  88. Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) (2007), Morocco: Country Gender Profile, JICA: Rabat, Morocc , pp. 21, 24; Reference 20, p. 53.

The Women, Business and the Law

Where are laws equal for men and women? 

The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.

For detailed information on Morocco, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Morocco


The FAO Gender and Land Rights Database

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The FAO Gender and Land Rights Database contains country level information on social, economic, political and cultural issues related to the gender inequalities embedded in those rights. Disparity on land access is one of the major causes for social and gender inequalities in rural areas, and it jeopardizes, as a consequence, rural food security as well as the wellbeing of individuals and families.

Six categories

The Database offers information on the 6 following Categories:

  • National legal frame
  • International treaties and conventions
  • Customary law 
  • Land tenure and related Institutions
  • Civil society organizations
  • Selected Land Related Statistics

For detailed information on Morocco, please visit the report on Morocco in the FAO Gender and Land Rights Database.

External Links

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