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Title: Processes of family law reform : legal and societal change and continuity in Morocco and Jordan
Author: Engelcke, Dorthe Kirsten
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 9640
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The dissertation solves the empirical puzzle why similar regimes such as Morocco and Jordan vary in their engagement in family law reform between 1999 and 2013. Differences with respect to family law reform in the two monarchies are threefold: the way the reform processes were carried out, the content of the new family codes that were issued in Morocco in 2004 and in Jordan in 2010, and the way the laws were applied. Using Pierre Bourdieu's theory of practice as a theoretical framework the dissertation establishes the links between the designs of the legal systems, how reform processes are carried out, the family laws countries end up with, and the way the laws are applied. French and British colonialism had shaped the legal systems of Morocco and Jordan to different degrees, producing a legal system that was unified after independence in Morocco whereas the Jordanian one continued to be divided into regular and religious courts. As a result, Moroccan family courts are less autonomous and more subjected to political decisions than Jordanian sharia courts. The institutional design of both judicial systems affected how family law reform was carried out because those systems contain biases towards different actors who are seen as competent of reforming family law and thus came to influence the reform process. The different access criteria to the juridical fields promote different types of cultural capital, so that actors participating in the process have different preferences regarding the development of the content of family law. In Jordan, the absence of the Jordanian king allowed the sharia court administration to exploit the structural bias in its favour and come to dominate both the process and content of family law reform. For this reason the 2010 Jordanian family law reflects to a lesser extent the demands of women's groups. The absence of the Jordanian king from the reform process demonstrates that change in authoritarian states is not necessarily imposed from above nor is it predetermined from the beginning. The Jordanian reform process saw little engagement from the top-level of the regime and could be classified as a mid-level process. It was led by a government body, the sharia court administration, which however enjoyed relative autonomy from the upper echelon of the regime. By contrast, the Moroccan family law reform was a textbook example of authoritarian politics, the reform being imposed from above and the king playing a leading role during the process. In contrast to the process and content of reform, the application of the reformed law in Morocco challenges the notion of the omnipotent authoritarian regime. While the monarch could impose legislative change, the state is at best partially able to enforce this very law or to impose a consensus over its interpretation. The designs of the legal systems again had an impact here. International law occupies different places in the Moroccan and Jordanian constitutions: Jordanian sharia courts enjoy greater autonomy, reject international law, and thus were able to resist its intrusion.
Supervisor: Willis, Michael J. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Family law ; Law ; Socio-legal studies ; Democratic government ; International studies ; Public policy ; Gender ; sociology of of law ; authoritarianism ; Middle East