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Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Praise Morocco for Legislation Prohibiting Discrimination, Ask about High Maternal Mortality and Female Illiteracy Rates in Rural Areas

Meeting Summaries

 

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its consideration of the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Morocco, with Committee Experts praising the State for introducing legislation that prohibited discrimination, and raising questions about high maternal mortality and female illiteracy rates in rural areas.

Franceline Toe Bouda, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Morocco, congratulated Morocco on enshrining the equality of men and women within the Family Code. She also congratulated the State for banning discrimination based on sex, colour, language and disability.

A Committee Expert noted that the maternal mortality rate in rural areas (over 100 deaths per 100,000 births) was far higher than in urban areas (around 11 per 100,000). What measures were in place to improve health care in rural areas?

Another Committee Expert added that illiteracy remained a major problem in Morocco that adversely affected women in rural areas. What measures were in place to improve literacy rates of women in rural areas?

Introducing the report, Aawatif Hayar, Minister of Social Solidarity, Integration and Family of Morocco and head of the delegation, said that during the reporting period, the State had introduced the law against violence against women, the law on combatting trafficking in human beings, the domestic workers protection law, the law on combatting of all forms of discrimination, and other laws.

On the maternal mortality rate, the delegation said although the maternal mortality rate had fallen by 35 per cent, there were disparities in health care in urban and rural areas, and there was a need to bridge this gap. There was a national plan for bolstering medical services in rural areas through measures such as mobile clinics. These clinics provided services to over 70,000 pregnant women.

On illiteracy, the delegation said that there were two State programmes tackling the issue. The State party had conducted an assessment and identified boys and girls in need of support. These children were provided with dedicated educational support. The Government was committed to eradicating illiteracy.

In closing remarks, Ms. Hayar said that Morocco was proud of having ratified the Convention, and it had lifted its reservations to it in 2018. The State continued to uphold the rule of law and work with its partners to promote the rights of women. The Experts’ comments were of great use to Morocco and the State party would build upon them to further improve women’s rights.

In her concluding remarks, Aruna Devi Narainz, Committee Vice Chairperson, commended Morocco on the progress it had made in enhancing women’s rights, and called on the State party to implement all of the recommendations of the Committee to further improve the situation of women and girls in the country.

The delegation of Morocco consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Social Solidarity, Integration and Family ; Inter-Ministerial Delegation for Human Rights; Ministry of the Interior; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Habous and Islamic Affairs; Ministry of Education and Sports; Ministry of Health and Social Protection; Ministry of Economic Inclusion, Small Business, Employment and Skills; Ministry of Youth, Culture and Communication; Ministry of Economy and Finances; Ministry of Digital Transition and Administrative Reform; High Authority for Audio-Visual Communication; Ministry of Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests; Ministry of Tourism, Handicrafts, Social Economy and Solidarity; Directorate General of National Security; Royal Gendarmerie of Prisons and Reintegration; and the Permanent Mission of Morocco to the United Nations Office at Geneva .

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eighty-second session is being held from 13 June to 1 July. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed via the UN Web TV webpage.

The Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 23 June to start its consideration of the tenth periodic report of Mongolia (CEDAW/C/MNG/10).

Report

The Committee has before it the fifth and sixth combined periodic report of Morocco (CEDAW/C/MAR/5-6).

Presentation of Report

AAWATIF HAYAR, Minister of Social Solidarity, Integration and Family of Morocco and head of the delegation, saluted women in Morocco and all over the world for their determination in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Hayar noted that the Committee had encouraged women to manage public affairs during the pandemic. Morocco had tackled the COVID-19 pandemic by both limiting its spread and addressing its social and economic repercussions. It had provided medical protection to all citizens free of charge and financial support for vulnerable groups, including women in difficult situations. Morocco planned to adapt its unified social registry to facilitate access to financial compensation and social services for vulnerable groups.

Morocco aimed to implement Security Council resolution 1325 through its national action plan on women, peace and security, launched in March 2022. The State was also a founding member of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, which was launched in response to the alarming increase in domestic violence throughout the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, Morocco had acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention related to individual complaints in April 2022. Morocco had also lifted its reservations to some of the provisions of the Convention.

Thirty-two government sectors and national institutions, the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, and more than 76 non-governmental organizations had been consulted with in preparing the national report. The report covered the efforts of Morocco over a period of about 14 years. During this period, the State had made amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, and introduced the law against violence against women, the law on combatting trafficking in human beings, the domestic workers protection law, the budget regulatory law, the law on the creation of the parity commission, the law on combatting of all forms of discrimination, and other laws.

Equality programmes encouraged a gender approach in policies and programmes, the adoption of gender budgeting, and steps taken in the political and economic empowerment of women. Moreover, Morocco’s independent statistical body had undertaken data and gender based analytical research to support public policies on violence against women, economic activity, gender relations and the effect of the COVID pandemic. The State had also adopted in 2021 a set of laws to increase women’s representation in Parliament, in the territorial councils and in professional chambers. The revision of election laws had led to the representation of women increasing in regional and prefectural councils. The number of women in Parliament had risen from 81 in 2016, i.e. 20.5 per cent, to 96 in 2021, i.e. 24.3 per cent.

Legislation reform had led to a noticeable improvement in the representation of women in public service, which moved during the period between 2012 and 2021 from 38.6 per cent to 42 per cent, and from 10.38 per cent to 18.52 per cent at the level of senior positions. In 2022, a minimum wage was established in the agricultural, industrial, trade and service sectors, and 15 days paternity leave was granted to public sector employees. Law 19.20 established a mandatory quota for women on the boards of directors of listed companies, and the Government aimed to raise this proportion of women to 30 per cent by 2024 and 40 per cent by 2027.

The Government aimed to achieve more than a 30 per cent activity rate for women by the year 2026, and promoted equitable access to decent work for women. The Governmental Council had approved in June 2022 a decree establishing the National Commission for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

Morocco had launched major strategies for ensuring decent livelihoods for all citizens. The National Initiative for Human Development, which was launched in 2005 and was still ongoing, had contributed to fighting poverty and reducing categorical and spatial inequalities. The Green Morocco Plan 2008-2020 had contributed to achieving economic and social independence for women through farming initiatives. The Rural Development Fund was established to raise the income of farmers and improve the livelihoods of the rural population. It focused on the construction of roads, educational institutions, health centres and clinics; the provision of water and electricity; and programmes to support farming in mountains, oases, and drier areas. The national strategy called the Green Generation (2020-2030) supported women and youth in rural areas. The justice system had also been reformed to simplify judicial procedures and facilitate women’s access to the courts; it encouraged a gender approach and gender equality in the justice system.

Law 103.13 on combatting violence against women entered into force in September 2018. This law emphasised the need for public authorities to take all necessary measures to prevent violence against women.

Morocco signed the Marrakesh Declaration to Eliminate Violence against Women and Girls in March 2020. Following this declaration, unified standards had been established to support women victims of violence, as well as a land protocol. The Declaration also called for measures to eliminate child marriage and combat school dropouts. These provided support for about 20,000 girls who had dropped out of school in 2021.

The strategic vision for education reform 2015-2030 promoted quality, equity, equal opportunities and excellence. It also emphasised the universal schooling of children, in particular girls. As a result of measures implemented, female participation had increased at all education levels in both urban and rural areas.

Despite these achievements, more work was required to achieve the full participation of women and ensuring their independence.

FATIMA AARACH, representative of the National Council for Human Rights, said that the Council had launched a year-long national campaign combatting impunity and encouraging victims of violence to report offences. The Council was working to strengthen the capacity of various stakeholders in the field of women's rights, particularly civil society organizations, and to monitor discrimination against women and girls. The Council also addressed complaints and visited places of deprivation of liberty

The Council welcomed the progress made in the implementation of the Convention, in particular the completion of the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention, the adoption of a law against violence against women, as well as developments in election laws.

While Moroccan legislature had given importance to issues of equality and combatting discrimination and provided for new institutional mechanisms to respect and promote women's rights, there were many challenges facing women and girls, particularly with regard to the abolition of underage marriage, protection against various forms of violence against women, promotion of women’s political participation and facilitating their access to justice, as well as cultural challenges that sometimes prevented the promotion of women's rights.

While the representation of women in the House of Representatives had improved, there was still no equal representation.

The Council recommended that Morocco repeal or amend all legal requirements that may discriminate against women; pass a law punishing discrimination that was legally binding, proportionate and provided deterrent penalties; amend the Family Code, in particular eliminating the exception in article 20 that allowed for the marriage of children; and introduce legislation on abortion that respected the health of pregnant women, among others.

Questions by Committee Experts

FRANCELINE TOE BOUDA, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Morocco, commended Morocco for raising the minimum age for marriage and enshrining the equality of men and women within the Family Code. She also congratulated the State for giving primacy to international conventions and banning discrimination based on sex, colour, language and disability.

However, there were still many violations of women's human rights in Morocco, such as polygamy and illiteracy of disadvantaged women and girls, and these would be addressed in the dialogue.

Another Committee Expert congratulated the State for its legislation combatting discrimination. Had awareness campaigns been rolled out regarding this legislation? Did the State plan to amend national legislation to uphold international conventions? The Expert welcomed that international conventions had been given primacy over national legislation, and commended measures implemented to protect women and girls from domestic and sexual violence. What were the barriers to women and girls accessing justice?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that Morocco respected international conventions. It had submitted reservations to article two and paragraph four of article 15 of the Convention upon ratification. A committee and focal point had been established regarding accession to the Optional Protocol. The State had coordinated with the Human Rights Commission on establishing a national day promoting the Convention.

Morocco was working to ensure women’s access to justice. It had facilitated access to courts for women with disabilities. It had also established offices providing information on access to justice. Courts were well-equipped to handle cases of domestic violence. There were civil servants tasked with helping women in rural areas. Training programmes had been developed for magistrates on criteria for handling cases of domestic violence, human trafficking and early marriage. Since 2019, the State had been providing training on the Convention as well as other human rights mechanisms. Awareness campaigns had also been developed on domestic violence, human trafficking and early marriage. A national authority on gender parity and women’s empowerment had been established. This national authority would fight against discrimination against women.

In response to a request on more information about the national authority, including what budget was assigned to it and how did the Government oversee its work, the delegation said that the national authority on gender parity was an independent Constitutional body. It was tasked with implementing roadmaps on women’s empowerment. Following these, a gender-specific budget had been established and efficient measures had been implemented.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert called for funds supporting female entrepreneurship and women in rural areas. What support would be provided for women to access engineering jobs? The Expert called for policy measures encouraging women to access management roles in the private sector.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that a programme was in place that provided support to 10,000 people in accessing employment. A strategy for increasing the number of women in leadership was also in place, and under this, support had been provided to 36,000 women. An empowerment academy had also been launched online, and centres supporting over 500,000 people in obtaining employment each year were established across the State. Childcare support was also provided for women. Legislation had been implemented that called for gender parity on the management boards of public institutions.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert said that the law preventing violence against women needed to be brought in line with international standards, as it did not specifically ban marital rape. Certain regions of Morocco could not access the gender violence hotline, and did not have shelters for victims. Did State legislation prohibit marital rape? What was the State doing to prevent feminicide? What were State agencies doing to respect the privacy of victims of violence and whistle-blowers?

Another Committee Expert said that protections of victims of trafficking were not up to international standards. There were no shelters established specifically for victims of trafficking. How many female victims were children? Did the State party not register Sub-Saharan migrants who were victims of trafficking?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that all cases of violence against women were criminalised. Article 486 of the Criminal Code condemned all non-consensual sexual relations, including relations between spouses. Social workers were assigned to victims of violence to provide support and accompany them through legal proceedings.

A committee to prevent trafficking in human beings had been set up in 2019. There had been 131 victims of trafficking in 2021, including both young girls and adult women, as well as foreign women. The committee had conducted awareness-raising programmes on trafficking and had established a hotline for reporting cases. It had also provided training for law enforcement officers on identifying victims and prosecuting perpetrators. It provided psychosocial support and legal assistance for victims, regardless of nationality.

Morocco had expanded its legislative definition of violence to cover violence carried out online. It published pamphlets that informed potential victims about the risks of violence at home and legal remedies. The prosecutor’s office strived to provide protection for female victims of violence. Shelters had been established to provide services and care for victims of violence and trafficking. Awareness campaigns were carried out to inform victims about the support services available to them. The Government was evaluating the services it provided. A hotline had been established for reporting cases of violence, and cases could also be reported online.

In response to a question by a Committee Expert who said that there was a discrepancy between the Government’s report of 131 victims of trafficking in 2021 and other reports, which provided much higher figures, the delegation said that human trafficking was a complex crime and was not recognised in official statistics if certain conditions were not met.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert commended that nearly twice as many women were elected in the 2015 local government elections compared to 2009. However, in 2020, Morocco ranked 123 out of 153 countries on political participation of women. What measures was the State party planning to take to reinforce the political representation of women in the next legislative and communal elections? What support was provided for pregnant women in the public service? Only 24 per cent of judges and 25 per cent of ambassadors were women. What measures were in place to increase these figures? Would the State party introduce mechanisms to support lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and women with disabilities to participate in political and public life?

Another Committee Expert asked whether amendments to the Nationality Code gave women the ability to defer their nationality to their children on an equal basis with men. Did Moroccan women have the same right as men to retain their nationality on marriage? Did the State party plan to ratify international conventions on statelessness? What steps was the State party taking to ensure that all births were registered?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that training sessions were held for illiterate women to help them to take on responsibilities in public life. Morocco had implemented measures to ensure women’s representation at all levels of parliament. These measures had allowed women to access electoral lists. The quota for women on such lists was 46 per cent. The Government had provided financial assistance to support women’s political campaigns. There had been a significant increase in elected women in 2021. The Government had provided training for women eligible to take up positions in the civil service. It had also launched a programme to support women with disabilities in accessing the labour market.

Nothing prevented children from obtaining the nationality of their Moroccan father or mother. A Moroccan husband could confer his nationality to his foreign spouse. An amendment to the nationality law was being prepared that would allow a Moroccan wife to confer her nationality to her foreign spouse. There was no legislative discrimination against women with a disability.

The delegation said that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community did not face discrimination in Morocco, as Moroccan law protected this community, as with the rest of society, from discrimination. Perpetrators of attacks against this community were punished.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert welcomed that there had been a rise in spending on education in Morocco. However, illiteracy remained a major problem that adversely affected women in rural areas. What measures were in place to improve the literacy rates of women in rural areas? How was the Government promoting the return of girls to school in rural areas? Was the Government encouraging women and girls to study subjects traditionally popular with males? Were there any established sexual education programmes?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that strengthening education in rural areas was an element of the State policy supporting rural areas. There was a high budget allocated to education and teaching. There were over 11,000 schools in rural areas, and almost 50 per cent of teachers taught in rural areas. More measures were required to combat school dropouts. The Government was committed to building more schools, particularly in rural areas. Financial assistance was granted to poorer families to support their children’s education, and to rural schools to improve facilities and support students’ education. An assistance programme targeted female students under 19.

There were two State programmes tackling illiteracy. Morocco had conducted an assessment and identified boys and girls in need of support. These children were provided with dedicated educational support. The Government was committed to eradicating illiteracy and was conducting awareness campaigns to combat beliefs in some communities that girls should not leave the home. Regional councils provided transport in rural areas to help children to reach their schools.

Sexual and reproductive health education was included in school curricula. The Government had also raised awareness about sexual and reproductive health amongst families, as well as young girls and boys, as part of a national campaign. This campaign was part of a broader strategy for strengthening health care across the country. A website providing health information to young people also had been created.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert commended that girls’ access to primary schooling had increased by 36 per cent. What was the reason for women’s employment rate being much lower than that of men? How many women were covered by the social security system? Were domestic workers provided with health insurance? What measures had been taken to include women in COVID-19 recovery measures?

What had been done to improve women’s access to childcare facilities? Did the breastfeeding break imply that women took their children to work? What measures were in place to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace?

The Expert welcomed the progress made in enhancing health care services to reduce maternal and infant mortality. However, the maternal mortality rate in rural areas (over 100 deaths per 100,000 births) was far higher than in urban areas (around 11 per 100,000). What measures were in place to improve health care in rural areas? Did the State party plan to introduce legislation to legalise abortion? What measures had been taken to ensure that women and girls with disabilities were not placed in mental health institutions?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that great progress had been made in improving maternal health. The maternal mortality rate had fallen by 35 per cent. There were disparities in health care in urban and rural areas, and there was a need to bridge this gap. There was a national plan for bolstering medical services in rural areas through measures such as mobile clinics. These clinics provided services to over 70,000 pregnant women. The national programme on pregnancy and births had been revitalised, and comprehensive medical services were provided for women for 48 hours after giving birth. Medication was provided to women who suffered from fertility issues, and free screening was provided for breast, uterine and cervical cancer. Cases of transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child had fallen by over 130 per cent.

The Government ensured access to mental health services and had established dedicated programmes for providing support for women with mental health issues. A campaign fighting stigmatisation of such persons had also been launched, and specialised units for treating mental health issues had been established. Morocco did not impose upon women to go to mental health institutions without their consent. The 1959 law on mental health protected patients by enabling them to file appeals, and this law had recently been amended to protect patients against discrimination, torture and other cruel treatment.

During the pandemic, unprecedented financial support was provided to people whose jobs were cut, both in the formal and informal sectors. This support was provided on an equal gender basis. Employees who lost their jobs were also included in the social protection system, which made it easier for them to access State services. Two hundred dollars per month was provided to persons in support. A $ 200 billion support fund had been established, and a number of programmes had been launched to assist job seekers. Women made up 49 per cent of participants in these programmes.

Forty per cent of labour inspectors were women. A national programme aimed at unifying the minimum wage in the agricultural sector had also been launched. Sexual harassment at the workplace was prohibited under law 103.13, and offenders were punished.

A number of kindergartens had been established within the public sector to provide child care at the workplace. The Government was working on training child care staff.

Abortions were allowed in cases of incest and rape, and no prior authorisation was required. A prevention programme had been launched to stop clandestine abortions. Contraceptives were provided to young adults, and young people were being educated about the dangers of clandestine abortions.

In response to follow-up questions, the delegation said that a programme was in place to increase the percentage of working women from 22 per cent to 30 per cent. There was also a programme in place to create 10,000 new jobs, including 5,000 jobs for women.

Questions by a Committee Expert

A Committee Expert said that Morocco had made progress in improving the water supply in rural areas and improving rural roads. As a result, attendance in education facilities increased. However, high illiteracy rates in rural areas remained an issue. Several national plans were in place to support rural areas, but the maternal mortality rate remained high and access to health care and health insurance was limited. Did women still require permission from their husbands to seek health services?

What steps were being taken to support the high percentage of women who did not have an income? The illiteracy rate for women with a disability was high, and their attendance in schooling and the employment rate was low compared to men. What measures were in place to support women with disabilities?

What services and support programmes were provided to female refugees and women in detention facilities?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that the national fund for supporting rural areas had been renewed in 2016, and $ 50 billion had been allocated to this fund. Support programmes aimed at enhancing rural infrastructure had had a positive effect on women in rural areas, lowering their poverty rate. Jobs had been created, roads had been built, and households had been supplied with water and electricity under this programme. Sixty per cent of rural households now were supplied with electricity. Several programmes had been implemented to improve women’s access to employment, including vocational training programmes. Women’s trade unions had been encouraged to provide advice to women in rural areas. Eighty per cent of members of agricultural cooperatives were women and 720 financial loans had been provided by the Government to female entrepreneurs in rural areas.

There was a State programme in place that aimed to put an end to illiteracy by 2030. Budgetary resources had been allocated to this programme, and a special focus had been placed on women in rural areas and women deprived of liberty. In 2012, there were over 200,000 persons who benefited from this programme, and this had increased to 600,000 in 2022. Ninety per cent of participants were women.

The judiciary did not discriminate in the provision of its services. Women with disabilities were provided with sign language and braille interpretation.

Morocco had been trying to improve living conditions for women. Specialised centres provided support for vulnerable women. More than 2,800 projects had been implemented and 30 per cent of women had benefited from these projects.

Men and women inmates had equal access to health services. Efforts had been made to optimise conditions for women deprived of liberty, particularly pregnant women, who were housed in special facilities. Vocational training was provided for female inmates to aide their social reintegration.

Women with disabilities had the right to education. The social solidarity fund provided support for over 30,000 girls with disabilities to receive an education.

Questions by a Committee Expert

FRANCELINE TOE BOUDA, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Morocco, said that the consent of women was necessary for entering into a marriage contract and cancelling that contract. What was the State doing to respect that principle? What measures did the State plan to implement to fight stigmatisation of prostitutes and women with disabilities, and help them to obtain legal aid?

In 2008, the Committee had recommended that the Family Code be amended to prohibit polygamy, but this had yet to be enacted. Would polygamy be prohibited? The Committee had also voiced concerns regarding forced marriages of children. What measures was the State party taking to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18?

Fathers remained the legal guardians after a divorce, which meant that women could lose custody of their children if they remarried. Did the State party intend to implement legislation that allowed for joint custody?

What was the State doing to ensure that children born out of wedlock had the same rights as those born in wedlock? What measures would it take to provide victims of violence against women with appropriate support?

Responses by the Delegation

Women could only be deprived of guardianship if it was in the best interests of the child. Legal aid was provided by the State to all female victims of violence.

Only 0.026 per cent of marriages were polygamous. Spouses could request upon entering a marriage contract that polygamy be ruled out. The State was considering amending the Family Code to prevent early marriages. Early marriages were only permitted when the consent of the minor was provided.

Fifty per cent of women who benefited from State legal aid were victims of violence. Women had the right to share inheritance and property after divorce. A husband could not divorce his wife unilaterally. The State was working to address imbalances regarding inheritances, and to put an end to early marriages.

Concluding Remarks

AAWATIF HAYAR, Minister of Social Solidarity, Integration and Family of Morocco and head of the delegation , thanked the Committee for the dialogue. Morocco was proud of having ratified the Convention and it had lifted its reservations to it in 2018. Morocco continued to uphold the rule of law and work with its partners to promote the rights of women. The Experts’ comments were of great use to Morocco, and the State party would build upon them to further bolster women’s rights. Ms. Hayar assured the Committee that Morocco would continue to support it.

ARUNA DEVI NARAINZ, Committee Vice Chairperson, thanked the delegation for participating in the dialogue. Ms. Devi Narainz commended Morocco on the progress it had made in enhancing women’s rights, and called on the State party to implement all of the recommendations of the Committee to further improve the situation of women and girls in the State.

 

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CEDAW22.021E