Reform of Morocco's Nationality Law

A New Achievement for Women

A new nationality law ends the discrimination that has long affected the Moroccan woman giving her the right to pass her citizenship of origin to her children. A report by Muhammad Massad

Silhouette of a woman with two children (photo: AP)
The new amendments that permit women to pass Moroccan citizenship to their children put men and women on an equal footing

​​The new Moroccan nationality law that has been recently ratified has put an end to the suffering of Amal Zeytoun and Khalid al-Dumbari and many others in similar situations. Amal is a Moroccan married to a foreign national and has endured enormous difficulties for more than seven years in order to give her children Moroccan citizenship. She said, "We live in Marakkesh and my son feels he is Moroccan but every year we need to renew his residency permit."

Khalid al-Dumbari, who has a Moroccan mother and an Algerian father, has lived for more than forty years in Morocco. Due to his father's nationality he was placed in a special category; he says: "I live like a Moroccan and an Algerian but I cannot vote as a Moroccan. My son too is in the same position because I married a Moroccan woman. The latest amendments to the law will change this situation."

This is a sample of many cases that, due to a law based on descent and origin, end up in the category of a foreign national such as children of Moroccan women who are married to foreign men or others who live overseas. The new amendments that permit these women to pass Moroccan citizenship to their children has brought much relief and happiness.

Origin and paternity line

The new amendment to article six of the Moroccan nationality law was the cornerstone of this change which essentially sought to expand the definition that was initially based on origin to include the paternity line – in other words, it sought to achieve a complete equality regardless of whether it is the mother or the father who is the single Moroccan parent. The wording of the new article is clear: "Nationality is granted on the basis of origin or paternity line."

This allows any Moroccan woman to automatically pass her nationality to her children which will become a right granted to them at birth, whether they are born in Morocco or elsewhere, as the wording of the new article is specific: "The child of a Moroccan father or mother is considered a Moroccan national."

Similarly, "A child born to a mixed marriage is Moroccan at birth due to his maternal line and needs to choose on reaching the age of 18 to 20 which nationality to maintain. Should the mother have intervened to make that choice prior to the age of consent, then the offspring has the right on reaching the age of maturity to amend the change and demand the resumption of his Moroccan nationality."

Men and women on equal footing

With regard to this matter, the Minister of Justice, Muhammad Bouzba declared: "This law is a new cornerstone in the building of a modern democratic Morocco where both men and women are on equal footing and are treated as independent entities after marriage. It gives each the right to a citizenship that they can grant to their children."

One need mention here that the number of those benefiting from applications for Moroccan nationality between 1958 and the date of the new law in 2006 has only reached 6, 228 cases of which 131 managed to obtain it through royal protocols, 1,152 through ministerial protocols and 4,945 through special committees.

It is expected that the number of files that are ready to be examined which according to the Moroccan Ministry of Justice includes 477 applications that are ready for review by a ministerial committee headed by the Moroccan King Muhammad the Sixth. The government committee will review 176 applications and a special committee will overlook another 529 applications.

The new law has lifted much of the suffering and solved much that has affected many families living in Morocco or overseas especially as it relates to issues with regard to education and obtaining official documents. It also affirms the legitimacy of the struggle undertaken by the Organization for Women Rights who fought for the right of the Moroccan woman to pass her nationality to her offspring through demanding the application of the equality principle specified in the Constitution.

Morocco has also been a signatory to international treaties such as Human Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Treaty to end of discrimination against women and the Organization of Children's Rights. The new law endorses the other changes made in Moroccan family law by underscoring the equality in rights and duties between men and women.

Muhammad Massad

© Qantara 2007

Translated from the Arabic by Mona Zaki

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