Some 200 woman activists rallied outside Morocco’s parliament building on Saturday to demand the repeal of a rape-marriage law. Under the law, article 475, a rapist is allowed to marry his victim if she is a minor so he can avoid prosecution. Families often agree to such a marriage because of strong social pressures: An unmarried woman losing her virginity is seen as bringing dishonor to her whole family. Morocco, and Algeria and Tunisia, grant the rapist the opportunity to avoid prison time by marrying their victims.
Last Saturday, 16-year-old Amina Filali killed herself by swallowing rat poison after she was severely beaten in her marriage. Her death has sent “shockwaves” throughout Morocco, says AFP. On Thursday, 300 people had also staged a sit-in at the local court that approved her marriage.
Amina was from Larache near Tangiers, a poor, rural area where it is simply “unacceptable” for a woman to lose her virginity before marriage, says the BBC. Her father, Lahcen al-Filali, told an online newspaper, goud.ma, that when he reported that his daughter had been raped, the local court’s prosecutor advised him to have Amina marry the rapist. Al-Filali told AFP that he was opposed to the union but that his wife had insisted: ”She said we had to do it so people would stop deriding us, to remove the shame.”
Amina’s parents were also present at the rally on Saturday where protesters shouted ”Martyr Amina,” “The Law Killed Me,” and “We Are All Aminas.” A giant banner was displayed that read ”Women’s Dignity. End Sexual Harassment” in Arabic, Amazigh (a Berber language) and French. An independent newspaper Al Sabah expressed the outrage clearly felt by many in an editorial:
“I did not know Amina, but I imagine the colossal number of these ‘Aminas’ who live, or lived, among us.”
“It’s the law, an absurd, grotesque social rule, that tries to remedy an evil — rape — with another even more repugnant one, marrying the rapist. … Whom are we punishing in the end, the victim or her tormentor?
The BBC‘s Nora Fakim said that women feel “let down by the lack of response from the government and are furious at the justice minister” who has not agreed to open an investigation into Amina’s suicide.
Under Moroccan law, convicted rapists can be sentenced to five to 10 years in prison or between 10 and 20 years if the victim is a minor, along with a fine of 200 to 500 dirhams ($24-60). But if the rapist marries his victim, he cannot be prosecuted unless she is able to obtain a divorce, which is highly unlikely as, under Moroccan law, the decision of a judge authorizing such a marriage cannot be reversed.
Amina’s rapist was summoned by police after her suicide and has been released.
Until Article 475 is repealed, we are all Aminas.
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