Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2011


This Note focuses on women’s family law rights in Morocco, a country located in northwestern Africa, and often regarded as the western boundary of the Muslim-Arab world. Significantly, despite Morocco’s shared roots with nations such as Saudi Arabia in culture, religion, and language, the Moroccan government has interpreted similar traditions to yield a starkly different stance: gender equality is desirable. Morocco’s new Moudawana, the 2004 legislation on family law with provisions largely derived from Islamic sources, confers unprecedented rights on Moroccan women.

Part I of this Note evaluates the Moudawana in light of its break with traditional Shari’a, alongside its fidelity to other Islamic law principles in giving Moroccan women unprecedented rights. While the new Moudawana has provisions addressing inheritance, children’s rights, and assets within a marriage, this Note focuses on the provisions concerning marriage and divorce because they provide the simplest and most accessible illustrations of the law’s practical efficacy. Part II, with the aid of qualitative evidence gathered in rural Morocco, posits that the Moudawana is not enforced universally, and that under-enforcement likely results from deeply entrenched societal factors, as well as more immediate influences. Last, Part III proposes additional reforms to the Moudawana and implementation mechanisms. These proposed reforms would better account for the complex realities of rural life in Morocco, as well as the fact that the Moudawana affronts many people’s value systems, undermining its efficacy. A basis for the proposed reforms is one human rights NGO’s experimental paralegal program in Sierra Leone, which works to reconcile rights-based law with rural cultural norms.


This article was awarded the second place Cornell Law Library Prize for Exemplary Student Research in 2011. It has been published in the Cornell International Law Journal, vol. 44, no. 3 (Fall 2011).