Moroccan single mother burns herself in protest

RABAT (Reuters) – A young Moroccan set herself on fire after being excluded from a social housing scheme because she was an unmarried mother, a local government official said on Wednesday.

Morocco introduced a new family law in 2004 that has won it praise from Western countries for giving women more rights than many Arab countries.

But single mothers continue to struggle in the absence of a social safety net as authorities in the Muslim country do not recognize children born out of the wedlock.

Mother-of-two Fadwa Laroui, 25, used flammable liquid to set herself on fire in front of the town hall of Souk Sebt, in central Morocco, late Monday, the town’s mayor Boubker Ouchen told Reuters.

Two Souk Sebt residents said Laroui died Wednesday at a Casablanca hospital, but Ouchen could not confirm that. Medical sources at Casablanca’s Ibn Rochd hospital, where she was being treated, could not be reached for comment.

Laroui is the first Arab woman known to have set herself on fire in a protest at social conditions after Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation on December 17 led to a revolution that toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power and prompted several Arab men to do the same.

Ouchen said Laroui had not benefited from a housing scheme for low-income households because she was “a single mother and has not been a permanent resident of the town.”

“Divorced and single women and single mothers live with their parents. The administrative procedure has been applied in full transparency,” Ouchen added.

He denied newspaper reports that the authorities had destroyed the shack she, her two children and her parents were living in.

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