If this scenario doesn’t make your skin crawl, nothing will.
A young girl is pulled out of school at 12 and is working as a maid for a different family, so her own family has income. The man of the household rapes her but because he offers to marry her after the act, he doesn’t go to jail. The girl’s family actually wants him to marry her because her rape brings shame to their family. She has minimal, if any rights in her new household.
So this is not an everyday scenario, but a scenario nevertheless. Until early this year, this was legal in Morocco – and after one 16 years old committed suicide, there were serious manifestations and protests and the law (rapist marrying the victim) has been overturned. But that is just the beginning. Women’s rights is a sensitive issue here – as on the surface it is hard to see anything is wrong. We consistently hear both sides – things like that don’t happen here anymore, very rare – or it happens quite a lot but it is not talked about or is well hidden. Polygamy, child labor, lack of inheritance right, lack of legal rights to children – a lot of these could be linked to their inability to support themselves or their children, hence the need to stay with their husbands no matter what the conditions are. Some things are changing – but some things are not as the influence of very strong islamist party is prevalent, especially with the uneducated population. That is why literacy and income generation is so critically important for these women.
We heard stories like this today when we met with the Union d’Action Feminine (UAF), a women’s rights group. They educate women on what is and is not their right in this country – even though that itself is very different from what I consider women’s rights.
The book below is a handout that I picked up that explains what should be unacceptable behavior and the women should stand up to. The story goes like this and reads from right to left – the woman is pregnant, having contractions, asks the husband to see a doctor. He responds that his other wife or she already had 8 kids and doesn’t need a doctor. She says that her friend had a baby that almost died and she herself needed medical care. His response – “death is between you and Allah, no doctor”.
So, I paraphrased most of it and probably got some of it wrong – the book has over 30 pages of pretty unimaginable scenarios – I have it with me and will have it translated. Just look at the faces of the husband and his mother – I think you get the message. Left me speechless. I was really struggling to reconcile what I do everyday with what they do everyday – and that we were born in the same century. When I asked the activist how we, as individuals, can help – she couldn’t answer. Her response was “I don’t know, even with us doing what we do, it feels like a needle in the stack – it has to come from the government and state – it is a change of mindset and shift of what for many is deep inside and normal”
There are huge discrepancies in what is actually going on everyday. You hear those stories and then you hear this: “Women are very powerful here, hard working and above anything else – because they carry children. They are “blessed” to take care of the children because they have more patience than men. They are so happy and lucky to stay inside of these gorgeous houses and palaces all day.” This was from our guide in Fez. Thankfully, I had my sunglasses on so all he could see was a smirk. But you also hear that everything is fine and women are so powerful here and absolutely equal. And yes, you do see women that wear jeans and no headscarf. But if cases like Amina’s CAN happen – things are far far away from equal. And if you have to teach women that the below is wrong – then we have a way to go in the fight for women equality everywhere. #ibmcsc