Morocco PM's speech shows he does not see women as equals

The recent comments by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane raise questions about the fate of women in Morocco.

al-monitor Moroccan women take part in a demonstration outside parliament to demand the resignation of Morocco's Islamist Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, in Rabat, June 24, 2014. Photo by REUTERS.

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women's role, women's issues, women's rights, morocco, moroccan society, abdelilah benkirane

Jul 13, 2014

The problem with Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's recent statements before parliament is not so much that he compared our fellow female compatriots to chandeliers and stars. We should not criticize him for comparing women to ornaments that men would die to get their hands on, or to celestial objects whose purity blinds us. It doesn’t matter if he sounded vulgar while trying to appear down-to-earth, or if he looked prudish while trying to sound spiritual. Simply put, women are neither chandeliers nor stars; they are our equals, whether Benkirane likes it or not. We may wish for them to light up our homes or our consciences, but this thinking tells us more about our own fantasies, rather than the desires of our other half. Above all, we will never assign women a role they haven’t chosen themselves.

The road to the emancipation of women everywhere is long and hard. In some societies, namely Western societies, most feminist demands have been met, from the simplest demands to the ones that we find today strange, such as the right to vote, work, divorce, contraception, abortion, inheritance and free choice of sexuality. In the West, the issues of voting, working and sexuality were seen as tools necessary to achieve a wide-scale female liberation. In that part of the world, a free woman does not hide but instead faces the suggestive and brazen looks people give her. She is not guilty for other people’s thoughts and she accepts the fact that she is sometimes seen as an object of lust. There, the word is out, but isn’t an object defined as the opposite of a man? Does freedom mean to stop being a woman and become an object?

Because [Benkirane] did not raise this question, the Muslim world did not feel envious of the fate of Western women. We often think that our women have no reason to envy them and that virtue might be lost with the constant references to the decadence and degeneration of Western habits.

From our point of view, the Western woman is mostly no longer alienated. Work is often considered in our part of the world as enslavement; sexuality is not seen as empowerment but rather an addiction. This line of thinking has its setbacks, as it is based on a utopia and an ideal world that men deem a paradise that should be imposed on earth. You be the judge: consider a society delivered from the worries of subsistence, where a woman only works for her home and where she can only suffer and enjoy while procreating, a society inhabited by virgins and mothers where the original sin of being born a woman is gone.

This picture is a dangerous mirage. It is an image of a utopian and monstrous society where the individual can only exist through the function he assumes in this group. This normative and more than ideal world ignores the laws of evolution in societies. It does not realize that the roads to freedom may be imperfect and endless. This is why, especially during this period of the World Cup and the month of Ramadan, I would prefer to see a voluntary bikini over an imposed veil, and vice versa.

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