The debate on gender equality in inheritance resurfaces in Morocco

Ripple efffects. Moroccan women shout slogans during a protest calling for gender equality in Rabat. (AFP)

2017/08/20 Issue: 120 Page: 9

The Arab Weekly
Saad Guerraoui

Casablanca- The call for gender equality in inheritance resurfaced in Morocco following Tu­nisian President Beji Caid Essebsi’s move to amend the law on inheritance to guarantee equality between men and women in his country.

If the parliament passes the measure and it is enacted, Tunisia would be the first Arab country and fourth Muslim country to adopt equal inheritance.

In a speech that coincided with National Women’s Day, Caid Es­sebsi announced the formation of a committee to study applying equal­ity between men and women in all fields.

Saida Idrissi, president of the Democratic Association of Moroc­can Women (ADFM), hailed the move as a major human rights vic­tory for Tunisian women.

“With a conservative govern­ment we have in Morocco, the road will be very long before we emulate Tunisia on women’s rights,” Idrissi said.

In 2016, a legislative initiative to change the inheritance system was submitted by 27 Tunisian members of parliament but was met with fierce opposition.

In Morocco, there has been a long debate about the issue, with activ­ists and religious figures calling for equal inheritance. Sharia law dictates that women inherit half of what their brothers do.

Preacher Mohamed Abdelouahab Rafiki, known as Abu Hafs, said that what happened in Tunisia was a bold step that should be considered in Morocco.

“I think it is not surprising in a country like Tunisia, which was the forerunner of several initiatives in this section (women’s rights),” said Abou Hafs, who received death threats after calling for the amend­ment of the inheritance law in April on television.

“The dynamism of civil society besides the interaction of the Board of Muftis, which encouraged the call contrary to what we see from the official institutions’ opposition in the rest of Muslim countries, should be hailed,” he said.

“Morocco is better than other countries although it still needs more effort on this subject (equal inheritance). The debate on it has become more powerful. It is no longer a taboo as it was before and there are official institutions that interacted positively with the sub­ject, such as the National Council for Human Rights. Overall, I see that the situation will soon devel­op.”

Idrissi said Morocco’s 2011 Con­stitution stipulates gender equal­ity in all fields, including economic rights that “enclose inheritance.”

“Given that inheritance is a very important economic issue, men do not want to share this wealth to which women have contributed but men always bring the argument that the sacredness of inheritance should not be touched while there are many things that are more sa­cred, such as the illegality of usury,” she said.

Opponents of equal inheritance argue that the law must be kept as it is because God’s words are divine and not subject to any interpreta­tion.

Nasser Rennaj, a 49-year-old en­trepreneur, insists that the current inheritance law cannot be changed “because God knows better than anyone else the reasons of dividing inheritance between the two gen­ders.”

Abou Hafs denied that the call for equal inheritance was in opposition to Islam and the Quran.

“As I understand, the verses in the Quran dealt with a particular situation and chose the best laws that existed at the time, as a begin­ning to achieve equality, which is a noble value that Islam can only come to and call for,” he said.

“There are Quranic verses on ji­had and punishments that are not applied today and have been sub­ject to the logic of human develop­ment. Texts of inheritance should be similarly dealt with,”

Idrissi said: “We will launch the battle for equality in inheritance and claim our rights.”

Saad Guerraoui is a regular contributor to The Arab Weekly on Maghreb issues.

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