Friday, January 20, 2012

Morocco's New Government Falls Short on Gender Equity

The new government of Abdelilah Benkirane has received a reasonable reception in most areas. However, in what looks like a rather bad lapse of judgment, Benkirane has left himself vulnerable on the issue of gender equity. Among the new faces there is only a single woman minister, Bassima Hakkaoui, in charge of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development.
Bassima Hakkaoui
What is striking is that this step backwards comes six months after the new constitution intended to encourage parity in Moroccan society. Morocco has one of the most progressive women’s legislations in the Arab World. The electoral code was reformed in 2002 to increase women’s representation in the parliament through the introduction of a positive discrimination act, in the form of a proportional list system that initially reserved 30 seats for women in the lower house of parliament. The 2011 constitutional reform raised this number to 60 out 395 seats.

  "The men and women enjoy equal human rights and freedoms of a civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental [...] The Moroccan government is working to achieve parity between men and women. It is created for this purpose, an Authority for Equality and the fight against all forms of discrimination" - Article 19 of the Constitution.

It is also a step back from the previous Istiqlal government, where Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, who, though far from setting a reasonable benchmark on equity issues, appointed a total of seven women ministers between 2007 to 2011. The number of women in parliament was thirty-four. In this parliament there are now sixty-seven women which makes Benkirane's decision to appoint only one woman minister, even harder to understand. This failure to honour gender equity principles prompted anger amongst women’s associations who had hoped that an increase in the female representation in parliament would translate into powerful representation for women in the cabinet.

Bassima Hakkaoui

The extent of the feelings on this issue must have come clear to Benkirane on Thursday when Moroccan female lawmakers protested with placards against his decision. The message was unambiguous. The placards asked, “Women 1 - Men 30. Is this equitable sharing?”

Several female MPs, including former social and family affairs minister, Nouzha Skalli, have demanded an urgent amendment to the cabinet to include more women. She says she still can not believe it. "You can not imagine my disappointment! When this government does not respect the constitution it is a strong negative that goes against equality between men and women!"

Women protest in parliament 
Female parliamentarians from both opposition and majority parties took part in the protest, but members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) refrained. While outside the parliament, dozens of women protested the lack of female representation in the cabinet.

Following his first cabinet meeting early this month, Benkirane told reporters, “There is no reason to be outraged. I can assure you that there was no intention to exclude women from this government. What we need more than anything are competent people. Parties have tried (to find qualified women lawmakers) but it’s not easy,” he said. “As far as our party is concerned there were 14 women candidates to become minister to start with. One has been considered. You see, it’s not easy,” he said.

Who is Bassima Hakkaoui?

Bassima Hakkaoui was born October 5, 1960.

She holds a Master of Social Psychology (1996). Bassima Hakkaoui worked at the Center for Teacher Education, in Casablanca. She has been a Justice and Development Party MP since 2002.

She was Chair of the Committee on social sectors from 2006 to 2009 and member of the first chamber between 2009 and 2010.  Bassima Hakkaoui is a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee EU-Morocco.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It wasn't easy to find qualified women lawmakers? If so, he should have opened his eyes when he was searching! This is just ridiculous. By choosing just one woman he has confirmed what many people have been worried about; pjd is a women unfriendly and very backward party.