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.

 

Palestinians react to death of Peres

Syrian army retakes rebel-held Aleppo district

UN Libya envoy warns against ‘political impasse’

Morocco finally adopts Amazigh as official language

Saudi petition seeks 'full' rights for women

Poverty takes toll in rebel-held Yemen fishing village

Kerry threatens to end negotiations with Russia on Syria

Kuwaiti court scraps petrol price hike

Iraq requests more US troops to take on IS in Mosul

Airstrikes hit hospitals in rebel-held Aleppo

Iran nuclear chief says not worried about Trump

Iranian, Italian ships hold manoeuvres in Strait of Hormuz

Gunmen kill three Egypt policemen, civilian in Sinai

Turkey says 32,000 coup suspects awaiting trial

Paris to host international meeting on Libya

Etihad plane in emergency landing in Abu Dhabi

Struggling Saudi Oger lays off 1,300 staff

Israel ex-PM to serve 27 months for graft

Syrian kids return to school in Manbij

World Bank releases $300 million for Syrian refugees in Jordan

Iranian FM in Ankara for Syria talks

Israeli ex-president Peres dies

Oil prices post marginal gains

Russia tries to strongarm US with Aleppo assault

Jordan vows crackdown on online incitement

Assad, Russia press intense Aleppo assault

Iran's Ahmadinejad says will not run for president

Boris Johnson dismisses Erdogan goat poem as 'trivia'

Turkey dismisses 87 spy agency staff over failed coup

Egypt recovers sunken boat, more bodies

Israel's Peres 'fighting for his life'

Bombings kill at least seventeen in Baghdad

Netanyahu chooses diplomacy in US election

Iran sets conditions for joining terror finance taskforce

Who is the destroyer of Timbuktu shrines?

Israel to charge Lieberman party officials in graft probe

Egypt detains owner of capsized migrant vessel

Countless bombings in Baghdad’s Karrada since 2003 US-led invasion

Clinton, Trump clash in fiery first presidential debate

Moroccan gets death threat messages over cartoon posted by killed Jordanian

Saudi king unveils austerity drive

Israel prosecutor general denies going easy on PM

Iran frees Iranian-Canadian academic

Supplies dwindle, strikes intensify in Syria's Aleppo

Rebels, civilians quit Homs under deal with regime