Campaign to restrict women’s attire causes a stir in Morocco

The “Be a Man” message was promoted July 9 on Facebook and has been shared thousands of times.
Sunday 29/07/2018
Restrictions on land and sea. People are seen swimming in the northern Moroccan town of M’diq.     (Saad Guerraoui)
Restrictions on land and sea. People are seen swimming in the northern Moroccan town of M’diq. (Saad Guerraoui)

M'DIQ, Morocco - “I ’m a man and I want my mother, my wife and my daughter to put on their swimsuit on the beach if they want… and it’s none of your business nor mine either,” wrote Zakaria Mrini, a young lawyer in Casablanca, on Facebook in reaction to the “Koun Rajel” (“Be a Man”) campaign calling on men to prevent women from wearing “indecent clothes” in public.

The “Be a Man” message was promoted July 9 on Facebook and has been shared thousands of times. It was followed by: “Be a man and do not let your women and girls come out in tight, sticky, shocking clothes.”

The campaign was backed by people who justified their support with religious references.

Mrini’s comment was among strong reactions that condemned the “Be a Man” message.

“Women are not objects in the hand of uneducated guys. We are living in a democracy and every male and female has the same rights except for some few things that have to be abolished by law. Women have their own rights and they are free to wear bikinis if they want to and no man has the right to steal their rights,” Mrini said.

Mohamed al-Tair echoed his remarks.

“These obscurantist calls are an insult to the Moroccan women and seek to sow the stupor of the brains… They are very dangerous for the… cohesion of the nation,” Tair wrote on Facebook.

Activists rallied to defend women’s rights and individual freedoms against what they called “regressive thinking.”

Author Tahar Ben Jelloun, writing on the news website le360.ma, said: “Be a man, respect the woman and her freedom, her right and her way of life. Let her dress according to her choice, her desire and her will.

“Be a man, love yourself, be narcissistic (not too much) because, in loving you, you will love and respect others. You will go to others and you will accept them in their differences and their diversities.”

Rights activist Ahmed Assid said the campaign was living 1,000 years back.

“These people still think that manhood is practising violence against women and exercising guardianship over them because they still don’t understand that women are leading companies, ministries and countries,” said Assid.

Female activists denounced the “misogynistic” and “scandalous” campaign on social media with the hashtag “Sois une Femme Libre” (“Be a Free Woman”).

Coordinator of the Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms Ibtissam Lachgar told Achkayen.com that “Be a Free Woman” was a counter-campaign to rehabilitate women’s freedoms and against the male ideology that “dwarfs” the role of women.

Lachgar said those behind “Be a Man” were not necessarily conservative but male-dominated and obsessed with discriminatory ideas against women.”

“It is normal for them to issue such behaviour that should become a news item because women alone are capable of leading an entire society and capable of thinking with their mind and conscience in everything,” she said.

Moroccan society has become more conservative in the last two decades with the advent of Islamists in the political sphere and religious satellite television channels despite the country’s stated stance of an Islam based on tolerance.

A law against violence committed against women was adopted by the parliament in February, criminalising for the first time “certain acts considered as forms of harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill-treatment.”

However, the social pressure on women is still dominant in Morocco because many do not feel free to dress as they wish for fear of harassment, even at public beaches where men are bare-chested.

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