Friday, January 10, 2014

Moroccan society's attitude to divorced women

Divorced women in Moroccan society often struggle to find new partners, writes Zakaria El Hajji
At the age of 35, Tarik, a young Moroccan who works for a press agency in Casablanca, finally decided to share his life with a soul mate for better or worse till death do them part. Not being the type who uses online matchmaking services, he went the traditional way. After a couple of weeks, his liaison, the human search engine, came up with two candidates. They were both beautiful 24-year-old conservative prospects for his quest. That’s exactly what he had been looking for; it seemed that Tarik’s traditional matchmakers were paying off after all.

However, there was one more thing to know, one of the prospects used to be married before she got divorced, while the other had never been married. Tarik had a choice to make, although not a big deal you might say- he would automatically go for the former; well, let’s not judge so fast.

Not having been married before, the latter’s demands were far beyond Tarik’s reach. Not being the rich guy, he couldn’t meet her demands. On the other hand, the woman who was married before, didn’t ask for so much. Well, now you’re thinking what Tarik was thinking of! He decided to marry the woman who was divorced. Let’s think of a second-case scenario, what if Tarik had been the rich guy? Would he have still picked the same prospect? Well, I guess not! After breaking the news to his parents, his mother was really upset and she was totally against his marriage for the simple reason that her would be daughter-in-law was a divorced woman. So, why has society created this negative and degrading image of divorced women?

According to 2011 statistics, the Family Justice Services reported that 1 out of 6 marriages ends in divorce. In a society where virginity is glorified, divorced women often have a hard time finding new relationships. As an alibi, many divorced women faced with the harsh reality of how the Moroccan society views them, resort to prostitution. Divorced women are often left with nowhere to go and do not have a source of income to cover for their expenses.

Tracing this phenomenon back a couple of years ago in Morocco, women had no say whatsoever when it came to divorce. A great living example can be found in Leila Abouzeid’s novella, The Year of the Elephant, which shares a journey of a Moroccan woman during the transitional period between colonialism and the independence of Morocco. Zahra the protagonist, was the subject of divorce, the novella opens: “I come back to my hometown, feeling shattered and helpless. He had simply sat down and said, ‘Your papers will be sent to you along with whatever the law provides.’ My papers? How worthless a woman is if she can be returned with a receipt like some store bought object! How utterly worthless!” This shows how easy it was for a man to file for divorce without his wife’s agreement.

Divorce has acquired a negative connotation throughout the history of Morocco. Divorce has always been the storm that disconcerts the harmonious life of any family, it is the bad omen that shouldn’t be brought up under any marital roof, and it is the nightmare of any married woman. “For our people, divorce is a catastrophe, an absolute disaster.” Zahra said. How did divorce acquire this deeply rooted negative connotation? Women have been executed for things they have done as well as for things they are innocent of. For instance, a man can divorce his wife if she frequently gets sick, if she is impotent, if she has a love affair out of wedlock or if she simply gets old- the same reasons for which one would buy a new car or a new TV set.

What is more ironic, is when some men get new business transactions, they also get a new, young, wife as a reward. Thus, leaving behind the divorced wife to a society that perceives her as a social handicap, a malfunctioning and expired member of society who’s unable to settle down and lead a successful marital life.

You can read the rest of Zakaria El Hajji's article in Morocco World News. CLICK HERE.

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