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Morocco: Debate over women’s inheritance gets Trump bump

By Fahd Iraqi in Casablanca
Posted on Thursday, 22 August 2019 15:41

Ivanka Trump, daughter of US President Donald Trump, on July 10, 2019 in Washington. Patrick Semansky/AP/SIPA

Ivanka Trump, the US President's daughter, has come out in support of the Soulaliyat movement and welcomed what she sees as a step towards equality in women's inheritance rights on tribal lands in Morocco.

The Soulaliyat movement arose because of the exclusion of women from land allocations, initially referred to as the femmes soulaliyat, a French-Arabic term translated as “women of the tribes”.

Ivanka Trump congratulated the Moroccan Ambassador to Washington DC and tweeted her support to her 6.8m followers on Twitter.

  • “We applaud the Moroccan government for this important step towards the adoption of the amendments to the succession law and we hope to be able to support their full implementation. W-GDP [Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative] will continue to defend women’s land rights and I appreciate the strong leadership of Her Excellency Princess Lalla Joumala [the Moroccan Ambassador to Washington].”

The White House counsellor is also wife of Jared Kushner, an influential counsellor in the West Wing. The media attention is has worked as unexpected publicity for the soulala land bills (soulala refers to the bond that unites members of the same ethnic community).

Modest advances

Ivanka Trump heads the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity initiative — which launched last February.

She was informed of the Moroccan legislative reforms to ensure the future transfer of communal land is in line with the principles of gender equality.

However, Law 62-17 on the administrative supervision of soulaliyat lands, adopted last July, remains a small step forward on the issue of gender equality, a principle enshrined in the 2011 Constitution.

Admittedly, the new text updates a law dating back to 1919, but the achievements in terms of egalitarian distribution remain questionable.

  • Article 6 of the Act provides that members of the communities, male and female, enjoy collective ownership of the usufruct, but it does not specify that such distribution must be on an equal footing.
  • The Association démocratique des femmes du Maroc (ADFM) in a memorandum to parliament specifically requested that this important clause be included, but were rebuffed.

The law has remained vague on the issue because the legislative reform of the Soulaliyat lands was primarily concerned with responding to an economic emergency: to restore the status of the one million hectares of agricultural land needed for the deployment of a new agricultural strategy.

Compensation equation

In July 2018, women in the Gharb region, near Kenitra, were for the first time, allocated land lots as compensation for the transfer of collective land on an equal footing with their male counterparts. Such developments increase parity incrementally, while gender-equal inheritance is still far off.

Resistance, in tribal structures and administrations, remains high. Often, only the poorest — usually widows or single mothers — receive the promised benefits. But it is the women who find themselves without housing or financial compensation as a result of a transaction that has made headlines and raised awareness.

Equality in inheritance is a debate that the Moroccan authorities are perhaps trying to avoid.

  • Amina Bouayach, President of the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH), has been slow to convince the authorities to initiate reforms in favour of gender equality.

Ivanka Trump, speaking from Pennsylvania Avenue — light years away from the Soulaliyat communities of the Moroccan Gharb — may as well have tweeted: “A small step towards gender equality, waiting for a giant step in favour of Moroccan women.”

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