Commentary: America and Morocco: A contrast in rightsAfter winning the local Human Rights Commission essay contest, Red Wing eighth-grader Morley Struss took second in the state with this piece comparing her rights as an American youth to those of her peers in Morocco.
By: Morley Struss, The Republican Eagle
After winning the local Human Rights Commission essay contest, Red Wing eighth-grader Morley Struss took second in the state with this piece comparing her rights as an American youth to those of her peers in Morocco.
The essay was open to students in sixth through eighth grade, had to be one to three pages long and compare American rights to those of young people in other countries, referencing the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United States Bill of Rights or the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Morley and her family attended a banquet at the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Friendship House in St. Paul earlier this month, where she was awarded $350 for her second-place state finish. Morley is the daughter of Dan and Shelly Struss.
Morley will read her essay for the Red Wing Human Rights Commission at its June 21 meeting, and it will be broadcast on local channel 6.
A comparison between America and Morocco
By Morley Struss
I am a thirteen-year-old girl in the United States who enjoys the rights and privileges given to me by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration was the first worldwide document to state that all human beings have rights to certain freedoms and privileges. In 1948 the United Nations (UN) passed a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN is an organization that formed after World War II to stop wars between countries and to provide a place where people can talk freely amongst the world’s nations.
My privileges differ from children of other countries, but some are the same. In order to discover how my privileges differ from children of other countries, I interviewed Abdeslam and Jenny Mazouz. Abdeslam grew up and lived in Morocco from birth to age twenty-four. He met and married Jenny, a United States citizen, when she went to Morocco with the Peace Corps from 2006-2009. Currently, they live in Minnesota. I asked Abdeslam and Jenny a series of questions about what it was like to live in Morocco and what children have as rights. This is Abdeslam’s story, which shows some of the differences between young people growing up in America versus those growing up in Morocco.
Abdeslam grew up in Errachidia, Morocco, a rural city. His father is a doctor and his mother is a housewife. Abdeslam’s mother grew up in a rural area of Morocco, so she did not go to school. At sixteen years old she married Abdeslam’s father, who was thirty years old. In Morocco you cannot go on dates until you are either married or engaged, so Abdeslam’s mother and father’s marriage was set up by their parents. This took place before Morocco ratified the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1956. Since then human rights in Morocco have been slowly changing. Although the government signed the Declaration, it took a while to actually apply it. Another reason things change slowly is because people who live in rural areas tend to cling to their traditions, which in Morocco stem mostly from their religion of Islam. There are many differences between American and Moroccan rights, but I will discuss three differences that are the most significant.
The first difference is marriage. In Article 16 of the declaration, parts one and two state, “Men and women of full age … have the right to marry and to found a family,” and “Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.” As a thirteen-year-old, I plan to finish high school and college before starting my career. Along the way, I will probably date different boys before I marry. In contrast, Moroccan parents set up and plan the marriage, but the man or woman getting married may object. Until recently, Moroccan girls could get married at an age as early as thirteen years old, like Abdeslam’s mother. In February of 2004, a Moroccan law was passed which states that the minimum age of marital consent was raised to eighteen years old, another example of how Moroccan’s rights are slowly improving. A Moroccan girl in our time would probably get married at age eighteen to an older man, around thirty years old, who has a stable career and a decent home. Her parents would help her pick out this man. She would also not be able to date until she was either engaged or married to him. After Morocco signed the law, stating that a woman must be eighteen years or older to be married, the rights of women were increased, although it is usually a slow process to get people to change their customs and ideas. I am happy that in America we are free to choose our marriage partners. This is a privilege that is taken for granted by most Americans.
The second privilege is schooling. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26, states that “Everyone has the right to Education … Elementary education shall be compulsory. …” Here in America there are schools in big and small towns. School buses are also in almost every town, so children have a way of getting to school. Before Morocco ratified The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, students who lived far from a school would simply not be educated. In recent years it has become common for Moroccan students who live in rural areas to go to school; boarding houses are provided by the government. These are homes that the children live in during the school week since they live so far from home. After the Monday-Saturday school week is over, the children go home only to return on Monday. Now, rural area children going to school is an advancement in the Moroccan society. Unfortunately, Abdeslam’s mother never got to go to school because she lived too far away. Since Morocco joined the UN, their rights of schooling have increased but are not as advanced as those of Americans.
Also, in Morocco the schools are much stricter than in America. Article 5 in the declaration states, “No one shall be subject to … cruel … degrading treatment or punishment.” To discipline an elementary Moroccan student, the teacher will slap the child’s palms with a ruler. Also, children who do not participate in school or who talk back to a teacher will be expelled for up to fifteen days; however, being expelled from school in America infers that you did something extremely bad, and teachers would be severely punished or fired for slapping. In Morocco, children think of school as a privilege and always want to do their best. Some students in America think it is idiotic to be smart and purposely do not try their hardest. You would never see this attitude in Morocco. Education is more highly valued to students in Morocco than in America because it is not as readily available to Moroccan students as to American ones.
The third privilege is choice of apparel. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, states, “Everyone has the right to freedom, opinion and expression … through any media. …” Moroccan school girls have to wear a white coat over their clothes every day to school. However, the boys do not have this dress code. In most American public schools, students are not forced to wear certain clothing. This is another right that is changing slowly over the years in Morocco.
Privileges in America versus those in Morocco are very different. Morocco joined the UN in 1956, and in 1996 Morocco wrote its new Constitution the rules by which they will abide. The Preamble of the Constitution, states that Morocco will “abide by the universally recognized human rights…” which is a reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then rights of Moroccan adults and children have been changing for the better. Americans tend to think that America has always been “the land of the free”; however, 100 or 200 years ago human rights were not as they are today. Abdeslam said that due to colonization by the French, it took a while for Moroccans to learn to govern themselves and adopt the human rights. Although Moroccan rights are changing for the better, I am glad that I live in America, where most of our laws and practices are already in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.