The white tabliya (a long apron) should not be missing in Moroccan public schools. It is the most common ‘school uniform’ for students, but in practice it is only compulsory for girls. Many young girls are fed up with this unequal treatment. “Isn’t that very sexist?!”, says sixteen-year-old Meryam Abousslah on the phone from the city of Kenitra, in the northwest of the country. She attends the Gauss Lycée, a secondary school where she is required to wear “the ugly doctor’s coat”. “At my school there is not one boy who has to wear that stupid jacket,” she says. “But as a girl, when I decide not to wear it, I get yelled at and I can’t enter the class.” Several girls across the country have been complaining about dress codes online for the past week. They find it unreasonable. “I honestly don’t understand why we’re still debating this. The regulations should apply to both sexes or to no one,” 16-year-old Iman, a girl from Fes, said in a discussion on Instagram. Tighter for girls The unequal treatment between men and women is not an isolated incident. In Moroccan society, girls are often brought up more strictly than boys. For example, women are punished more quickly for their choice of clothing or are more quickly stamped if they do not meet Moroccan standards and values. This can also have a negative effect on women in the law. When a woman has an extramarital (sexual) relationship with a man, she risks a prison sentence and a fine. The men themselves often escape unscathed. That happened at the beginning of last year with the young Hanaa from Tetouan. She had an intimate relationship with a young man, for which she was sentenced to one month in prison. Her sex partner went free. Boys also see the unequal treatment as problematic. “Schools supposedly help us develop our own character, but in reality they suppress us. Whether it’s how we should dress, or how we should behave. We look like robots. Even when it is 37 degrees, we are not allowed to wear shorter clothes,” 17-year-old Anas from Salé, a city near the capital Rabat, responds to Iman’s message. All the same Not everyone shares the criticism of the school uniform. Mouhcine Sadki (17) from Casablanca thinks it is useful and believes that boys should also be obliged to wear it. “Wearing a school uniform has many advantages. Children all look the same, poor is indistinguishable from rich. People will not judge each other by how you look. And you also radiate unity.” Many parents also support the uniform. Like 43-year-old Zohra Snoussi from Tangier. She prefers to see her fourteen-year-old daughter with a white coat on over her clothes, she says on the phone. “We have to teach the youth a little structure and regularity. If we let everyone wear whatever they want, the school will turn into a catwalk, and that’s not what schools were made for. Let them do that in their spare time.” Snoussi does acknowledge that the rules are now somewhat crooked. “Boys also often look indecent with their ripped pants and printed shirts with glitter, so to only address the girls about their clothes is no longer of this time.” Indecent The discussion about the uniform rules is being held more often. The last time the debate was sparked was last April, when a mother complained to her on Facebook. The school board had sent her 14-year-old daughter home for wearing a dress above the knees beneath her white jacket. The school board informed the mother that her daughter would look indecent and that the choice of clothing does not belong in a school. “My daughter missed the math classes, French and social sciences because of her ‘short’ dress. Ridiculous,” the mother wrote in the Facebook post that went viral. The incident sparked a lot of criticism among activists. According to them, schools should focus more on the quality of education instead of telling girls what to wear and what not to wear to school. “We must stop portraying young women as objects of pleasure who have to cover themselves. I think the problem lies elsewhere when you look at girls in that way. I think a lesson in sex education would be more appropriate than making a white jacket compulsory for the female sex,” growls Meryem Abbouslah. A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of October 11, 2022