Overblog Suivre ce blog
Editer l'article Administration Créer mon blog
25 juin 2009 4 25 /06 /juin /2009 12:08

SEXUALITY IN SOCIAL SCIENCES IN MOROCCO[1] (I)

 

Prof. Dr. Abdessamad Dialmy

                                                                                                                                           University Mohamed V Rabat

 

In the 1960s, the Malthusian imperative imposed on Morocco by international operators was at the origin of some research on sexuality through some studies on marriage (the minimum age of the first marriage, choice of the spouse…etc.) and family (type and size). It is through this institutional dimension that sexuality has been established as an object of knowledge and action in order to control national demographic explosion.

Parallel to this Islamized Malthusianism, a practical tolerance of sexual liberalism could be observed in spite of the existence of repressive laws, which forbid all shapes of non-marital relation. The explosion of premarital sexuality due to the crisis of employment and marriage is demonstrated by the fact that the percentage of bachelors with AIDS is continuously increasing[2]. Between 1986 and 1997, 20% of persons living with HIV are bachelors. In June 2001, this percentage reached 39%. Henceforth, bachelors are more infected than married people (36%). The practical and non assumed sexual liberalism has, in my sense, filled out a compensatory function in the sense that individuals, politically crushed during the 1960s and the 1970s, "realize" themselves sexually without touching to the established order. Sexual liberalism is observable in the impunity of the urban sexual harassment, in the free sale of contraceptives, in the explosion of premarital sexuality, in the rise of male and female prostitution. Indeed, the field of sexuality knows a fast evolution characterized by the emergence of anarchical sexual behaviors and practices theoretically condemned in an Islamic society.

In a context of economical precariousness, these anarchical sexual behaviors are not informed nor chosen, they are undergone in a way and a fortiori the HIV risk increases. The expansion of sexual work is the indicator par excellence of the vulnerability of youngsters to this risk. The STD constitutes a national curse; there are 400 000 new cases every year according to evaluations of the ministry of health. Therefore, associated to STD and AIDS threat, sexuality began since the end of the 1980s to be perceived in terms of risk and, therefore, classified among public health problems. Programs are elaborated in the aim of promoting sexual health, especially understood as prevention against STD-AIDS. But already the development of family planning, a prior necessity of development, has made sexuality shift from the private domain to the public one and from the individual level to the collective one. The HIV risk does perpetuate and strengthen this perspective.  

Through contraception, premarital relationships, sexual work, and STD-HIV risk, Moroccan sexuality has joined the universal and the global. It also begins to conceive itself in terms of sexual rights: right to sexual information, right to choice, right to sexual pleasure, right to protection and care. But the founding secularism at the heart of sexual health is said to be inadmissible in the name of an Islam that refuses to recognize sexuality as such, but always associates it with marriage in the Islamic term/institution of nikah. Sexual specificity is thus affirmed in the name of Islam.  

Therefore Moroccan sexuality is a social/cultural construction that oscillates between the specificity of tradition and the universality of modernity. This oscillation is both the indication of an ideological and theoretical contradiction, and a permanent source of tension. But this contradiction is solved in daily life, at the levels of social praxis and among professionals of sexual health. It is this movement of pendulum, characteristic of Moroccan sexuality, oscillating between the specific and the universal, between the ideological contradiction and practical programs that I would like to describe in this paper. 

Within this framework, this paper tries to answer the following question: What is the status of sexuality and sexual health in the practice of social sciences in Morocco?  

From a bibliography[3] that covers the notions of family, woman and sexuality (from 1912 to 1996), the hypothesis of the progressive disclosure of the object "sexuality" emerged. In other words, the object family and the object woman veiled successively sexuality as object of research. And it is above all because of the emergence of AIDS that sexuality currently shifts toward a kind of epistemological autonomy in the sense that it has began to be studied without being eclipsed by family or woman and without being cautioned by the “morality” of family or woman objects.

At the quantitative level, the pure sexual themes occupy a minor status with respect to the objects of family and woman as the following two figures demonstrate: 

 

Figure 1: Distribution of Writings on Family-Women-Sexuality 

 

         Period

 

Theme

Colonization

 

1912-1955

 

%

Independence

 

1956-1975

 

%

Neo-national

 

1976-1996

 

%

Family

 

41,2

31,3

15,6

Woman

 

41,0

47,3

58,4

Sexuality

 

17,8

21,4

25,0

Total

100

100

100

 


 

Figure 2: Distribution of Writings on Sexuality 

                                                              

            Period

 

Theme

1912-1955

 

%

1956-1975

 

%

1976-1996

 

%

Behavior

 

1,6

1,9

7,5

Body, virginity

 

3,2

1,9

3,5

Prostitution

 

3,2

0,0

2,5

Fertility

 

9,8

17,6

4,5

STD-AIDS

 

0,0

0,0

7,0

Total

17,8

21,4

25,0

 

 

As one can notice through these two figures, sexual themes have recently acquired a relative statistical importance. But most importantly, one can notice that the object sexuality has been landed mainly through the demographic perspective (fertility and contraception) from 1912 to 1975. It is only in the third period that the demographic prism relatively fades away so that notions of sexual behavior and risky sexuality attract more attention.   Indeed, concentrating attention on the family meant studying sexuality only through its institutional demonstrations. Variables of social studies of family overlook behaviors and sexual practices outside marriage.  

 

1- Women as a challenge

 

Women studies are having the absolute majority during the two last periods, after-independence (1956-1975) and neo-national (1976-1996). These studies are mainly focused on themes related to development like the veil, education, employment, the use of contraceptives and virginity. Consequently, the object woman was a stage in the progressive discovery of sexuality as "object" by social studies through the mediation of body that was here fundamental.

The emergence of the object "woman" is indeed correlated to the public production of the female body in a society that had to break with one of its ideological foundations, the public eclipse of body. Education and employment particularly raise the question of the veil while the increase of contraceptive use reinforces in the same sense the appearance of female body as non-mechanically devoted to pregnancies. The veil is in fact the socio-religious mechanism that served to eclipse female body in the traditional urban public space[4]. And it was quite normal that, after independence, Moroccan society faces the issue of the veil when facing the question of female education and employment. The construction of modern Morocco in the name of the development ideology could not be effectively carried out in social setting divided in two hierarchical worlds, one public and male and the other domestic and female. National power anxious to insert the woman as actress in the process of development waged a battle against the veil and the seclusion of women. In this sense, already in 1952 Allal el Fassi wrote that "the veiled woman is not less exposed than the unveiled one to the danger of prostitution"[5]. He went further by accusing the separation of sexes to be responsible for homosexual practices[6]. In doing so, Al Fassi was certainly under the impact of Egyptian reformists (like Mohammed Abdou) or Egyptian feminists like Hoda Chaaraoui. But there was also the impact of the western[7] family model on the Moroccan family. Consequently, after independence, the veil was not recognized as a sign of resistance to colonization. The battle of the veil is highly symbolic because it translated the historical necessity of the emergence of woman as a productive body in the productive space. The liberation from the veil was a kind of liberation from submission, from the patriarchal image of the homemaker. It was the first step toward the emergence of woman as a body-subject that can say no while giving the impression to offer itself. This body-subject can invest public space without hiding body and beauty. This public unveiling of female body, reinforced by progressively extended contraceptive use, allowed first to define body less and less as "a trunk of pregnancies" according to D. Chraïbi's expression[8] and more and more as an erotic pleasure instrument[9]. Indeed, the recurrent theme of virginity indicates the will of female body to act as an actor of premarital sexual pleasure that is critical of patriarchy and its Islamic justification[10].

This public production of the female body began by the battle against the veil and is continuing through the battle against virginity. Indeed Bouhdiba[11] tends to say that Arab-feminism had two main stages, the first one is the liberation from the veil between the two world wars while the second is the conquest of the right to flirt and sex (critique of chastity and virginity. In the 1970s the female circumcision[12] was as an emerging topic in Egyptian feminism). But according to J. Berque[13], the Moroccan reformist Allal al Fassi addressed to the town council of Fez in 1927 a petition through which he asked for the prohibition of exposing the bride's linen during the wedding night. This petition suggests the idea that Moroccan reformism is precocious and adopted a proto-feminist critique of the taboo of virginity since the 1920s.

Of course, the veil and virginity are two main themes directly related to the body and sexuality, which raises the general question of compatibility between women’s liberation (modernity) and Islam[14]. For current Moroccan feminism that is expressed essentially through female associations[15], there is no contradiction between women’s liberation and Islam. For this elitist movement of the Moroccan female intelligentsia, women’s liberation and integration into development can be achieved with Islam and not against it. In other words, Moroccan feminism never claims secularism. For fundamentalists, some feminist claims are unacceptable. For them, present Moslem woman has first to be veiled without refusing modernity. Due to massive access to academic education, the fundamentalist veiled woman is both involved in the conquest of the positive western knowledge and in the Islamic ethics[16]. This ethics is the setting in which the western knowledge must be made use of, it is also the setting that draws divine borders for female behavior in society. Consequently the fundamentalist veil[17] is the symbol through which woman is both Muslim and modern in a mixed public space without arousing the danger of chaos (fitna) induced by the seductive powers of women. According to some fundamentalists students of al Adl wa al Ihssane interviewed at Fez university[18], the traditional veil means effectively woman’s exclusion, but the "true" Islamic veil "protects" woman to be perceived as a desirable public body. This "new" veil does not prevent woman to participate in production, knowledge and power and guarantees her free circulation in the public zones of the urban space. In this case, the public space does not turn into a place of excitation and sexual harassment. Hence the necessity to create the concept of veiled feminism[19] to understand the internal logic of fundamentalist feminism. Far from defining itself anti-feminist, the fundamentalist veil claim fills a feminist function in the sense that it symbolizes the woman's refusal to be assimilated to a sexual and seductive body-object. The moralization of relations between sexes is obtained thanks to the veil and thanks to a bodily discipline. But let's signal here the gap that exists between the ideal and reality: Twelve percent of veiled young girls are favorable to premarital sexuality[20]. Furthermore, a veiled gynecologist asserts that veiled young girls have intercourse and consult for sexual pleasure issue[21].

Besides this gap, Islamic feminism also collapses in the claims of the Moroccan feminist associations concerning seven major points related to family status and to sexual and reproductive health. These points were presented in the Project of National Plan of Woman Integration in Development [22] (1999) as non-secular claims and as possible Islamic options. They are : the increase of the legal age of marriage to eighteen years for girls, the suppression of the matrimonial tutor, the suppression of polygamy, the transformation of repudiation into divorce, the allotment of conjugal wealth after divorce between spouses, the installation of condom distributors, the protection of abortion outside marriage. The Islamic refusal[23] of these points shows the limits of an Islamic feminism in Morocco and the resistance of the juridical Islam to the sexual and reproductive rights. It also points out its unhistorical definition of Islamic sexuality and family. Perhaps Dialmy's essay entitled "Toward an Islamic sexual democracy"[24] is the only work that demonstrates that the necessity to protect premarital sexuality against STD/VIH risk is not incompatible with the intentions of Islamic law and with the spirit of Islam. Especially in "Sexual health and Ijtihad" chapter, Dialmy argues that Ijtihad with both the available sacred texts and beyond the texts is necessary to protect sexual health as a central dimension of public health. Since premarital abstinence is unrealistic, it is less dangerous to use a condom. Having premarital sex with a condom or having it without a condom is illicit but having premarital sex with a condom is less harmful.

The religious resistance to the seven main feminist Moroccan claims showed that there is no difference between official Islam (ministry of Islamic affairs/Oulema) and Islamic fundamentalism as far as women and sexuality are concerned. A non-formal Islamic forehead constituted itself to struggle against gender liberation summarized in these seven points. For this front, these seven points have already received a definitive negative Islamic answer that consists in a double dependency: sexuality is dependent on marriage and woman is dependent on man. This double dependency is supposed to be an Invariable according to the juridical dominant Islam. Mystic Islam[25], which shows the possibility of an Islam defined as a possible theory of sexual rights and egalitarian family, is both excluded by Moslem scholars and fundamentalists. However, let's note that a more egalitarian Islam is applied in Iran with reference to Shiit juridical schools. Ayatollah Khomeïni introduced a new family law that could be considered among the most advanced in the Middle East, "without deviating from any of the major conventional assumptions of Islamic law"[26]. Under this new law, three major conquests : 1) "the first wife has the right of divorce should the husband take a second wife without her consent", 2) "the wealth accumulated during the marriage is divided equally between the couple in the event of divorce, 3) housework wages must now be paid upon divorce or on the woman's demand"[27]. On the other hand Ayatollah Khomeini allowed marriage of enjoyment[28] which brings an answer to the problem of sexuality in an Islamic community where youngsters, for lack of means, get married late.



[1] Extracted from my paper entitled « Sexuality and Sexual Health in Morocco », in "Challenges in Sexual and Reproductive Health: Technical Consultation on Sexual Health, OMS, Genève 2002.

[2] Analyse épidémiologique des cas cumulés de SIDA-Maladie enregistrés au 30 juin 2001, Ministry of Public Health, DELM/DMT, Service of STD-AIDS (Title/hp/k).

[3] A. Dialmy : “Le champ Famille-Femme-Sexualité. Les voiles de la sexualité ”, in Les Sciences Humaines et Sociales au Maroc, Universitary Institute of Scientific Research, Rabat, 1998.

[4] G. Tillion : Le harem et les cousins, Paris, Seuil, 1965, M. Chebel : Le corps dans la tradtion au Maghreb, Paris, PUF, 1984.

[5] Allal el Fassi : "L'auto-critique", Rabat, 1979, 4th edition, p. 272 (in Arabic).

[6] Ibid. p. 272.

[7] D. Masson : “Les influences européennes sur la famille indigène au Maroc”, Entretiens sur les pays de civilisation arabe, n° 7-10, 1937.

[8] D. Chraïbli : Le passé simple, Paris, Seuil, 1954.

[9] A. Bellarbi : “Soins corporels féminins : entretien ou séduction?”, in Corps au féminin, Casablanca, Le Fennec, 1991.

[10] N. Bradley : “Le scandale de la virginité”, Lamalif, n° 25, 1968; F. Mernissi : "Virginité et patriarcat", Lamalif, n° 107, July 1979; S. Naamane Guessous : Au-delà de toute pudeur, Casablanca, Soden 1987.

[11] A. Bouhdiba : La sexualité en Islam, Paris, PUF, 1975, p. 286.

[12] The absence of excision in Moroccan society removes to Moroccan feminism an important means that could have joined it more strongly to Egyptian feminism. Among the cultural reasons justifying excision, the desire of some Arabian and African societies to pull up the girl's sexual desire and, later the one of the married woman. In this setting, one pretends that an excised girl can resist the desire better and can support married better once her husband's prolonged absence. The feminist critique of excision indicates a woman's claiming of which one recognizes the body as desiring body. Indeed, the Egyptian feminism, pioneer and symbol of the Arabian feminism, first attacked female circumcision during years 1970-1980 as amputation and mayhem and considered it like a harmful cultural practice. In "Women and Neurosis" (1977), N. Saadawi accuses excision to be a source of psychic disruptions affecting the sexual desire and the orgasmic faculty. On such study basis, the African feminists and Arabic succeeded in 1990 in making adopt the term of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This term was adopted in a conference of the Inter-African Coalition (IAC) co-sponsored by the World Health Organization. See N. Wassef and A. Mansur : Investigating Masculinities and Female Genital Mutilation in Egypt, NCPD/FGM Task Force, Cairo, 1999.

[13] J. Berque : "Ca et là dans les débuts du réformisme religieux au Maghreb", in Etudes d'orientalisme dédiées à la mémoire de Lévi-Provençal, Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 1962, T. II, p. 484.

[14] Z. Daoud : Féminisme et politique au Maghreb, Casablanca, Eddif, 1993.

[15] A. Dialmy : Féminisme, islamisme et soufisme, Paris, Publisud, 1997, pp. 131-182.

[16] Dale F. Eickelman : “ Mass higher education and the religious imagination in contemporary Arab societies ”, American Ethnologist, 19, 4, 1996; Christiansen C. Caroe and L. Kofoed Rasmussen: “The Muslim Woman- A Battlefield ”, in Contrasts and Solutions in the Middle East, Ole Hoiris and Sefa Martin Yurukel (edited by), Aarhus University Press (Denmark), 1997.

[17] H. Taarji : Les voilées de l'Islam, Paris, Balland, 1990.

[18] A Dialmy: “L’université marocaine et le féminisme ”, in Mouvements féministes: origines et orientations, Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences of Fez, Fez, 2000.

[19] Ibid. p. 56.

[20] A. Dialmy : Logement, sexualité et Islam, Eddif, Casablanca, 1995, p. 183.

[21] A. Dialmy : Sexualité et politique au Maroc, UNFPA, 2001, p. 18.

[22] Project of National Plan of Women Integration in Development, Secretary of State in charge of Social Protection, Family and Childhood, 1999.

[23] The refusal was both expressed by Ministry of Religious Affairs, Oulema, fundamentalists and some political parties. This refusal expressed itself essentially in the Casablanca walk held march 12, 2000.

[24] A. Dialmy: Toward an Islamic sexual democracy, Fez, Info-Print, 2000 (in Arabic). Let's signal that fundamentalists stopped the book impression and only 400 copies could be impressed and sought.

[25] A. Dialmy : Féminisme soufi, Casablanca, Afrique-Orient, 1991; Leila Ahmed (ed) : Women and Gender in Islam, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1992.

[26] Homa Hoodfar : "Population Policy and Gender equity in Iran", in C. M. Obermeyer (ed) : Family, Gender and Population in the Middle East, The American University in Cairo Press, 1995, p. 123.

[27] Ibid. p. 124.

[28] "Opinion of Imam al Khomeini", in S. Wardani : "The marriage of enjoyment is licit among Sunnit", Cairo, Medbouli Library, 1997, pp. 133-136 (in Arabic).

Partager cet article

Repost 0

commentaires