Forced to marry the man who had raped her, a 16-year-old Moroccan girl committed suicide last month. She had been raped by another minor in the northern port city of Tetouan. As Abdel Ali El-Allawi, director of the local chapter of an international NGO, the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH), said to Al Jazeera, the rapist was first put into prison but that his family “entered negotiations with the family of the victim” and proposed that their son marry the teenager; her family assented.
Under Article 475 of the Moroccan Penal Code, rapists who marry their victims can be exonerated from their crime. He cannot be prosecuted unless the woman is able to obtain a divorce, a situation that is highly unlikely as, under Moroccan law, the decision of a judge authorizing such a marriage cannot be reversed.
Pressure to repeal the law rose last year after the suicide of 16-year-old Amina Filali, who killed herself with rat poison after she had been forced to marry her rapist who was ten years older than her. She had also been regularly beaten by her husband and mistreated by his family, whom she lived with after being married. After her suicide, her rapist was summoned by the police and then released.
Khadija Riyadi, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, explains that a woman who loses her virginity is considered unmarriageable and guilty of dishonoring her family, even if she was raped.
Last year, women’s rights groups like Mouvement Alternatif pour les Libertés Individuelles (MALI) and women’s rights activists demonstrated and demanded that Article 475 be repealed. The calls to do so spread beyond Morocco, with a Twitter hashtag #RIPAmina calling for Article 475 to be eliminated.
Another Suicide Means That Morocco Must Repeal Article 475
According to Al Jazeera, Allawi and Riyadi had thought that Article 475 had, following the uproar after Filali took her own life, “already been modified to bar rapists from escaping prison terms.” In January, Morocco’s justice ministry had issued a statement indicating its support for abrogating Article 475.
But Morocco’s Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid has told Al Jazeera that lawmakers have yet to change the law. “Until now, it’s still just a law project that’s being considered by parliament but hasn’t been rectified. We have not yet formally edited the article,” he says.
Article 475 is just one example of how Morocco fails to protect its girls and women from violence and inequality. Rights groups have also been calling in the government to revise a draft law that would regulate conditions for the country’s thousands of domestic workers. While the law would offer domestic workers similar legal protections to those for other workers under the Moroccan Labor Law, it does not comply with international standards.
Morocco and the United States enjoy strong diplomatic ties, including a formal bilateral human rights dialogue, a free-trade agreement, joint military exercises and counterterrorism efforts. The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, met with President Obama on November 22 in Washington for the first time in eleven years, just one week after the 16-year-old victim’s suicide was announced. How can the United States continue to have such close ties to a country with such misogynistic laws that offer women and girls only little, limited protection from violence?
Photo via Thinkstock