Moktar el-Ghzioui, the editor of Morocco’s daily newspaper Al Ahdath Al-Maghribia, is concerned for his safety after speaking up in support of pre-marital sex. Currently, it is illegal for Moroccans to have sexual relations before marriage and they can be jailed if they are caught, according to the BBC.
Article 490 makes sexual relations outside of marriage illegal based on Islamic law, which reserves sexual relations only for those who are married. Honor and female virginity are often associated and can cause serious repercussions for women who have been sexually abused or just plain active.
The editor of the newspaper told the BBC about his fears for his life after speaking up about the controversial issue saying, “The next thing there was a cleric from Oujda releasing a fatwa that I should die… I am very scared for myself and my family. It’s a real blow to all the modernists who thought Morocco was moving forward.”
The most famous sexual scandal to rock Morocco in recent months was the tragedy surrounding a 16-year-old girl named Amina Filali. She was raped by a man 10 years her senior and when her family took the man to court, the judge declared that she must marry her rapist to recover her family’s honor. The young girl suffered deeply at the hands of her attacker and committed suicide in March.
The story reached headlines around the world and put Morocco in the limelight for cruelty to women and a lack of laws which protect women and their bodies. This month, feminist groups called out Solidary, Women and Family Minister Bassima Hakkaoui for comments that downplayed the severe lack of women’s rights in Morocco.
Hakkaoui called for younger marriage age and said that headlines and associations surrounding women’s rights unfairly damaged the image of Morocco abroad. Feminists in Morocco fired back saying that local women’s issues need to be addressed and should be addressed by the only female in Morocco’s government.
Although women officially have equal political, civil and social rights under the country’s constitution, they continue to face discrimination and rigorous rules regarding their honor. Sexual activity outside of marriage will likely remain a taboo for both men and women. Just recently, an unmarried man and woman were jailed for six weeks after they were caught in the act, the BBC notes.
Women are often heckled on the streets of Morocco, like anywhere else in the world. Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid maintains that loosening the pre-marital sex ban would “promote debauchery.” Although allowing pre-marital sexual relations to occur legally may not have a direct impact on sexual harassment in the street, the two issues feed into a larger cultural understanding of feminine worth, honor and virginity that can put women’s bodies in peril.
Photo Credit: Steve Evans