Today, Saudi Arabia remains the only nation that formally restricts women's right to vote. The Philippines has made sweeping legislative changes recognizing women's rights across a wide spectrum of law. Morocco overhauled its family code in 2004 to better recognize equality between the genders.
As the world turned its attention to the massive and sustained demonstrations in Egypt last week, much smaller but nevertheless significant protests took place in Morocco leading up to Friday’s parliamentary elections. As the country prepared for the first elections since King Mohammed VI implemented reforms last summer to give that body more power, thousands of Moroccans took to the streets in Casablanca, Rabat, and Tangier, calling for regime change.
The demonstrations highlight the wide gap between the West’s vision of Morocco as a leading example of how to transition into democracy, and the average Moroccan’s view of a regime reluctant to release power.
The kids scored their first big success on Feb. 20, when tens of thousands of Moroccans hit the streets of more than 50 towns and cities, demanding change. The protests had been organized by young independent activists responding to calls made on Facebook.
Since that date — so glorious that the youth movement was named after it — hundreds of thousands have demonstrated, at least once a week. The pressure has already compelled King Mohammed VI to promise constitutional reforms, to devolve some of his absolute powers to the elected government.
The European Parliament's committee for International Trade last week gave the green light to a new agriculture agreement that will ease restrictions on the importation of fruit and vegetables from Morocco.
But it has emerged that the single biggest beneficiary of the deal will be the King of Morocco, who is head of one of the three largest agricultural producers in the north African country and lays claim to 12,000 hectares of the nation's most fertile farmland.
Human rights groups have warned that royal estates covered with polytunnels stretch across swathes of the Dahkla region of the Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1975.
In conservative Morocco, these female preachers could never have gained acceptance without a nod from King Mohammed VI, a progressive when it comes to women's rights. One of the monarch's first decrees on ascending the throne in 1999 was to throw open the doors of his father's harem in Rabat, pensioning off dozens of concubines who had rarely been allowed outside the palace walls. He later pushed for a reform in family law, giving women more rights than in most Muslim countries in matters of divorce, property and her husband's choice of subsequent wives.
The moderate Islamist PJD (Justice and Development Party) won an overwhelming victory with Abdelilah Benkirane, PJD party leader, becoming the country's new prime minister.
Campaigning on a platform of creating at least 250,000 new jobs in Morocco's hard-pressed economy and reforming the country's education process so that graduates will have better opportunities for employment, the PJD victory comes on the heels of significant political reforms initiated in Morocco, in which King Mohammed VI has ceded the role and responsibility of head of the government to the prime minister.
Morocco on Thursday said it would amend a law allowing rapists to marry their underage female victims after the suicide of a teenage girl raised doubts about the effectiveness of reforms to women's rights in the country.
Sixteen-year-old Amina El-Filali killed herself last week near the northern city of Larache by swallowing rat poison after a six-month forced marriage to the man who raped her.
The Kingdom of Morocco is the most westerly of the North African countries known as the Maghreb.
Strategically situated with both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines, but with a rugged mountainous interior, it stayed independent for centuries while developing a rich culture blended from Arab, Berber, European and African influences.
Visitors to Morocco usually head straight for the beaches or plunge into the winding alleys of exotic medieval markets, but this rich North African country also has a wealth of ruins from its days as a Roman colony.
Few visit Morocco's handful of 2,000-year-old sites, but they are well worth the side trip, not least because the ancient city planners had a knack for picking the most stunning locations for their towns.
Morocco, a kingdom on the western edge of North Africa, has been touched by the so-called Arab Spring, the surge in popular agitation that brought down dictators in Tunisia and Egypt and has challenged many others. But the calls for change sweeping the region have been muted in Morocco by a fear of chaos, a prevalent security apparatus and genuine respect for the king, Mohammed VI.