Being a single mother in Morocco

Ghizlane Echorrouque, Morocco

In Morocco, as in most Arab countries, the issue of single mothers is still a taboo.

Unmarried women that become pregnant even after they were raped, are still considered to be a source of deep shame as they carry a child without being married. Men are always the last person to blame in such situations as they always put the blame on women and assume them responsible. But, when it comes to the women choices to have an abortion, it is still not considered as a valid reason.

It is known that many women are getting raped by their family members. And yet, most single mothers in Morocco are rejected by their families and by society as a whole; as a Moroccan single mother said: “there is no mercy in our society”. Most of the Moroccan society, which is 99 percent Muslim, is forbidding sex outside of marriage, even disapproving those who help single mothers.

Many Moroccan single mothers said that when it was time to have their babies, they were too scared to go to the hospital as they may be charged for prostitution for having sex outside of marriage. The law in Morocco categorizes a single mother as a prostitute, meaning that if she is pregnant without having a marriage certificate, this might be considered as a sufficient proof and evidence to send her to jail. If a single mother lodges a complaint against the father, he can pay off officials, but will also accuse her of prostitution.

As a consequence, many single mothers resort to sex work to provide for themselves and their children, many of them tried to commit suicide several times; others, exposed to social and economic pressures, are forced to give up their babies, but still continue to live in fear and are shunned by the society. Even though these women are supported by the non-governmental organizations, cultural norms and traditions still work against them.

A short story about a single mother in Morocco is telling. Her mother remarried when she was a baby, and gave her to another family to look after her. But when she was four years old, she recognized she was a maid and not their daughter. When she was nearly twenty years old, she started to work in a snack bar and met someone related to the snack bars’ owner. They lived together for a year, but then she became pregnant, and he said to her “if you want us to get married, you have to have an abortion”. He started threatening to kill her if she kept the baby. Then she went to live in a Moroccan organization that she called “home” to protect her until she gave birth to her baby.

With the help of these associations, many single mothers built their small businesses and have earned the respect and acceptance of their communities, so they can finally live a normal life in the society.

Until they get the support and independence which enables them to look after themselves, speak up and defend themselves, single mothers have to work and fight hard to assert their dignity and place in the society.