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Religion and Society

Between Gender Equality and Islam: Feminisms in Morocco

Women in Fez, Morocco [Oasis]

In the Maghrebi kingdom, both the secular and the Islam-based women’s rights movements are calling the country’s social and religious foundations into question. The monarchy has accepted some of their demands, but only insofar as they serve to reinforce its own stability.

This article was published in Oasis 30. Read the table of contents

Last update: 2021-01-18 10:37:36

The relationship between feminist demands, state policies and Islam offers a meaningful perspective for understanding the complex situation in the Maghrebi kingdom. Women’s rights movements, whether secular or Islam-based, are increasingly challenging the social and religious foundations of the country. The monarchy accepted some of their requests, generating, as a result, new forms of female religious authority which nonetheless served to reinforce its own stability.


Following the public protests led by the 20 February Movement in 2011, a new “top-down” Constitution was approved in Morocco, sanctioning a principle for which certain civil-society organizations (mostly feminist ones) have long fought: gender equality. A few years later, however, Morocco is still a long way off adapting its laws and social norms to this principle, which many progressive groups consider to be fundamental for the country’s “transition to democracy,” something as longed-for as it is unrealized.[i]


In the face of such a ferment, the relationship between feminist demands, gender politics and Islam or between the claims to a substantive equality between men and women, state reforms directed at guaranteeing a greater protection of the latters’ rights and the political exploitation of religion seems to be a significant field of observation for understanding the current complex situation. A situation in which “bottom-up” demands for both democratic changes to the state and socio-economic justice are clashing with an autocratic management of power by the elites close to the royal family, which uses Islam to guarantee the status quo. 


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