Sonja Lokar, Executive Director of the Gender Network, went on October 28th on a 10 day mission to Morocco for NDI. The objective was evaluation of gender policies in 8 political parties. The Arab spring is playing out differently in Morocco since the King responded to the protests by organizing an inclusive process of drafting a new Constitution. This broadened the possibilities for a more democratic and modern Morocco. Voices of progressive women are included in the process which may deepen existing achievements in gender equality.
In the last years, Morocco has modernized its Family Code and the law on citizenship giving the right to children born in mixed marriages to receive Moroccan citizenship also from the mother and not only from the father. In the new Constitution there is a special article speaking about the duty of the state to work for the achievement of gender parity. In the new electoral law all parties are now obliged to have at least 30% of women on common lists, and special lists for 60 women and 30 young men. As there were no legal placing rules, women candidates ended up too low on the lists. Only 7 women were elected from the common local lists. This is why the share of elected women MPs stayed at 17% and just one (very conservative) woman became a member of the new, big coalition based, cabinet.
In the meantime, the law on political parties was changed, all parties are now obliged by law to have at least 30% of women in all party decision making bodies at all levels, and to establish special parity commissions which would deal with gender equality within the parties. There are no sanctions for non compliance so it will be up to the strength of the Moroccan women's movement to make use of all these positive legal changes. Still the process is slowly but moving in the right direction. At the recent reshuffling of the cabinet the cabinet has been enlarged for 8 ministerial and state secretary posts.
Two women became ministers and 4 deputy ministers. Economic recession is hard on Morocco. It remains to be seen how the political leadership of the country will respond to every day economic and social needs of educated but jobless youth and unemployed, badly paid industrial and rural workers and of course to hardships for women.