Mauritanian women expressed their outrage at a fatwa issued by the advisor of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz which bans women from becoming presidents even though they are allowed to contest the elections.
“Women can run for the presidency as long as they have no chance of winning. They can just do that for fun,” said Islamic scholar and presidential advisor Aslamo Ould Sidi al-Mustafa.
The fatwa stirred the indignation of the Association of Female Heads of Families, one of Mauritania’s most prominent women’s right’s organizations. According to the association, the fatwa constitutes a flagrant violation of women’s rights as well as of Mauritanian laws.
“The fatwa is also very contradictory for it gives women the right to run but not the right to win,” said the statement issued by the association.
According to the statement, the fatwa implies sanctioning the rigging of votes in case preliminary results show that a female candidate may have a chance to win.
“The danger in this fatwa is that it is issued by a prominent cleric who works as the president’s advisor and this makes it more credible, thus more alarming for women’s rights activists.”
The statement noted that the fatwa is against the Mauritanian constitution which states that all citizens are equal and have the same rights.
The association saw this fatwa as part of the general deterioration women’s rights have been lately undergoing in Mauritania.
“Women are now deprived of occupying several important state positions due to the pressure exercised by a group of anti-women officials in decision-making institutions.”
The fatwa, the association’s statement added, also dealt a severe blow to hopes for more female participation in politics especially following the new law that stipulated dedicating 20 percent of party lists and independent candidacy to women in legislative and municipal councils.
It is noteworthy that no women took part in Mauritania’s last presidential elections after the only female candidate decided to withdraw.
However, previous presidential elections witnessed remarkable female presence. The most famous female presidential candidate in Mauritania was Aisha bint Jidan who ran in the 2003 elections under the slogan, “You have tried a male president, so why not try a female one?”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)