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Title: Women's access to justice in Morocco through the lens of family law
Author: Hanafi, Leila
ISNI:       0000 0004 7223 8595
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2018
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This Morocco-focused study was conducted to assess access to justice for women regarding the implementation of the Moudawana. Its aims are firstly to provide original evidence, notably through field research, about discrepancies in access to justice for women as a disadvantaged group, and to contribute to the ongoing literature tracking women's rights throughout the political development of Morocco and North Africa. The research presents a reflective insight into accessing justice in Morocco for women through a focus on the accessibility and performance of the formal justice system and disparities in the implementation of the law in urban vs. rural settings, whereby the urban sample is the capital region Rabat-Sale-Kenitra and the rural one is Draa-Tafilalt. The particular role of the formal justice system, which I also refer to as the 'justice system' or 'judicial system' is emphasised throughout this dissertation as both an arena in which barriers to full implementation exist and one that could be greater utilised in the pursuit of justice for all women. This research addresses also the role informal justice plays as a dispute resolution forum in rural Morocco, but the primary focus of the empirical research is tailored to the formal system due to the scarcity of information regarding informal justice and the capacity for greater oversight of the effective implementation therein. There is a need to better understand its impact on women because the courts can help alter (or entrench) social norms as well as place limits on government action and create opportunities for women's social and legal empowerment. This thesis examines these two issues of accessibility and performance from a supply perspective and the impact of the demand because the two exist in a cyclical relationship. Therefore, its main contribution is to advance the arguments that accessibility and performance of a fair and impartial justice system is key to ensuring women's access to justice, and that by empowering women to utilise this system and the laws in place for their protection, access to justice can become a reality. Therefore, it is imperative to rethink implementation of the existing family law so that it becomes applied to both formal and informal justice systems. Despite the presence of constitutional provisions and a legislative framework regarding access to justice, ground realities reveal that the implementation of such laws as well as providing wider access to justice for women is marred by institutional and social discriminatory practices. Women feature prominently among groups with unequal access to the justice system. In addition to state-sponsored or condoned discrimination against women, women are marginalised from the justice system because injustices against women are much 2 more likely to occur in private than injustices against men. In Morocco, women's access is constrained when compared with men because of relatively less control of the economic assets needed to navigate justice sector services as well as restrictive social norms that discourage them from filing cases and complaints. These norms are more pronounced in rural regions of the country. My field research demonstrated that any possible discussion of women's access to justice ought to deal with two primary issues: how formal justice is defined for women, and what context has to exist for justice to be realised. This thesis highlights the fact that there is a complicated interaction of different layers that contribute to providing access to justice for women in Morocco. The pluralistic Moroccan political, legal, and social fields inform this legislation, the often disparate way it is applied, and the social realities facing women who seek its protection. One conclusion unveiled is that, while justice sector institutions and the services they provide should be tools for women to challenge constraining social norms and discriminatory practices, the Moroccan formal justice system tends to perpetuate these challenges and this especially applies to rural areas, particularly given that disciplinary action against bias and discrimination is weak. Finally, there is the unseen layer or social context, whereby any equal protection by the legal system might fail to protect the rights of women because of a discriminatory culture and customary practices. The data from the fieldwork also suggest that women's perceptions of the formal justice system are negative in the presence of discriminatory institutional practices and societal norms. This thesis concludes that any reform of the formal justice system will be more successful if based upon an understanding of the barriers to access to justice specific to women. The local body of knowledge is rather poor regarding the area under discussion, however, especially in rural Morocco. Only a few small-scale empirical research studies about the accessibility of justice exist and there are very few published articles on the subject. A distinct conclusion is that legal and social empowerment can provide wider access to justice in Morocco for disadvantaged groups such as women, if coupled with strengthening the formal justice machinery to enhance women's confidence in the Moroccan judicial system as a fair and impartial adjudicator of family disputes. The research underscores the transformative power of the law when the justice mechanisms apply their legal obligations with impartiality, integrity, and universal standards.
Supervisor: Schepel, Harm ; Arai, Yutaka Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral