First Published: 2013-01-24

 

Progress in Morocco: Another step on path to gender equality

 

Women's rights in Morocco are poised to make breakthrough with probable scrapping of law allowing rapists to avoid jail.

 

Middle East Online

By Guillaume Klein – RABAT

Real reform begins with change of mentality

Women's rights in Morocco are poised to make a breakthrough with the probable scrapping of a law allowing rapists of minors to avoid jail by marrying them, but the road to gender equality remains long.

The kingdom was shocked in March 2012 by the suicide of Amina Filali, 16, who was forced to marry the man who violated her. For him it was a way under Article 475 of the country's penal code to remain a free man.

On Monday, the country's Islamist government expressed its backing for a bill to repeal this section of the law.

The justice ministry has also said it supports a proposal by parliament to alter the article, under which the rape of a minor is punishable by several years in prison unless the victims and their aggressor wed.

The proposal has yet to be formally approved by both houses, however.

The ministry said it was prepared to go further than scrapping the paragraph on marriage, suggesting harsher punishments for those who rape minors, including up to 30 years in jail rather than the current stipulated five.

"The amendments by nature guarantee the necessary protection for minors against sexual assault," said Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid.

Driss El Yazami, president of the National Council for Human Rights, said that the way was now clear for a favourable amendment in both houses.

"Any progress is noteworthy and it is clear that there was a shocking provision" in the current law, he said, but also called for speedier reforms.

"The question is not simply to affirm the principle of equality, but to see how parity" can be achieved, he said, noting that his council urged the creation of a superior body on equality as stipulated under the constitution.

But progress towards gender equality in Morocco is moving slowly.

Since 2004, following an initiative by King Mohammed VI, Morocco has had a new family code (moudawana) governing polygamy.

However, the daily Le Soir Echos has cited alarming data showing that marriages of minors are on the rise in the kingdom, with 34,000 cases reported in 2010 -- up from 29,847 in 2008.

A key concern is violence against women, said Khadija Ryadi, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.

Six million Moroccan women have suffered physical or verbal violence, more than half suffering abuse in marriages, according to Bassima Hakkaoui, the only female minister in a government dominated by Islamist Justice and Development Party which won the 2011 parliamentary polls.

Media reports have also highlighted other cases.

In early January an attempted suicide by a house maid caused an emotional outpouring in Morocco. The entire incident was recorded on video by a neighbour and posted on the Internet.

The young woman, who leapt from the fourth floor of an apartment building in Casablanca where she worked, said she was raped two years ago and rejected by her family.

She was saved by a young man who caught her but was killed doing so.

The maid said afterwards she had wanted to kill herself because of "continued exploitation."

Morocco has up to 80,000 minors who work as domestics, according to several associations.

Last week there was also an angry tumult when a member of parliament initially sentenced to a one-year jail term in a rape case was acquitted on appeal.

"The constitution has allowed some progress in theory, but there has been no tangible contribution," said Ryadi.

"If it hadn't been for the Amina Filali case, we would not have even be talking about Article 475" on the rape of minors, she added.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings, the kingdom in mid-2011 enshrined "equal rights and freedoms" for men and women, adding that "the state would work to achieve parity" between the two.

Analyst Yazami says that what is needed now is a change of mentality.

"In addition to legislative reforms, there is probably very important work to be done in terms of education and mentality," he said.

 

Egypt, France agree to step up cooperation against terrorism

Syria, Russia support UN in suspending Aleppo fighting

Pope to rebuild bridges with Islamic world in Turkey visit

OPEC meets for pivotal decision on oil output

Lebanese diva Sabah passes away

Powers to push for Iran nuclear deal before new deadline

Iraqi forces, tribesmen battle IS jihadists in Ramadi

Egypt jails 78 minors for pro-Morsi protests

US slams Assad regime for ‘continued slaughter’

Regime indiscriminate strikes kill scores in Islamic State 'capital' in Syria

Putin meets with Syria Foreign Minister in Black Sea retreat of Sochi

Britain rushes to fight terror with controversial bill

Gunmen kill 3 Egypt policemen in fresh terrorist attack

Iran lawmakers finally approve third Rouhani science minister pick

Turkey clears only suspect in alleged poisoning of former president

Huthis humiliate Al-Ahmar clan with capture of Sanaa headquarters

Christians hold out in Syria second city despite Daesh threat

Libya’s Derna emerges as new IS stronghold

Egypt to reopen Rafah border crossing Wednesday

Egypt leader begins two-day trip to France

Tribesmen blow up Yemen’s main oil pipeline

Russia trims oil output

UN chief calls for halt to Libya air strikes

Syrian air strikes on Raqa kill 63 civilians

17 killed in fatal Cairo building collapse

Egypt nabs five Salafist leaders

Essebsi leads Tunisia presidential vote

Paris pushing for 'safe zones' in war-torn Syria

New air strike hits Tripoli’s sole operational airport

Pentagon chief steps down

Saudi seeks to ‘knock out’ shale oil competitors from oil market

Death toll rises from Morocco flash floods

Yemen troops free 8 hostages from Al-Qaeda

Italy hails Egypt as 'strategic partner'

US Congress skeptical of Iran nuclear talks extension

Khartoum, Darfur rebels open ceasefire talks

Time runs out for biggest chance to resolve Iran nuclear standoff

Egypt leader heads to Italy

Morocco arrests six over online IS allegiance pledge

Iraqi forces retake areas near Iran border from jihadists

Southern Morocco storms claim eight lives

Marzouki, Essebsi set for runoff in Tunisia presidential vote

Biden wraps up Turkey visit without breakthrough on Syria

Sudan launches investigation into claims of 'mass rape' in Darfur village

Assad urges ‘real pressure’ on backers of 'terror'