First Published: 2013-03-07

 

Morocco seeks to amend law on rape, child marriage

 

Parliament is expected to adopt tougher bill on rape while political parties still differ on legal age of marriage.

 

Middle East Online

By Guillaume Klein - RABAT

Ramid: We have supported other amendments aimed at the better protection of minors

Defenders of women's rights in Morocco are inching closer to a long-awaited goal as the kingdom's parliament works to amend a law that allows a rapist to escape prison by marrying his victim.

Morocco was shocked in March 2012 by the suicide of Amina Filali, 16, who was forced to marry the man who had raped her. He remained a free man under Article 475 of the kingdom's penal code.

A year later, the controversial article is to be amended after the Islamist government threw its weight behind a new bill now expected to be adopted by parliament at a spring session.

The justice ministry has said it supports altering the article, under which the rape of a minor is punishable by several years in prison unless the victim and aggressor wed.

"We have supported other amendments aimed at the better protection of minors," Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid said, referring to new tougher punishments for rape of up to 30 years behind bars.

Rachida Tahri, a Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) member and former president of the Women's Democratic Association of Morocco, has already moved the fight to another level -- banning child marriage itself.

The number of child marriages in the kingdom rose to more than 35,000 in 2010 from 30,000 two years before, official figures show.

Article 19 of the family code adopted in 2004 prohibits marriage for anyone below 18 years of age, considered the age of adulthood, but judges have often waived the rule.

"We have noticed, particularly in rural areas, violations among girls who are just 13 years old," said Zoubida Bouayad, a socialist MP, adding that more than 10 percent of women marry before the stipulated age of 18.

A teenager from the central city of Meknes said she was married when she was just 13 years and half, with false papers. "After I was drugged and tortured for a year, my husband repudiated me," she said on condition of anonymity.

The country's Islamist Justice and Development Party wants to make 16 the minimum age for marriage, while the defenders of women's rights have called for an outright ban on the marriage of minors.

"A teenager's place is in school," argued Khadija Rouissi, a member of the Party of Authenticity and Modernity.

"If one part of the law says there can be a marriage at 16 years, it sends a negative message to the people," said Tahri.

The campaigners are basing their case on the 2011 constitution, adopted during the Arab Spring, that calls for "equal rights" and urges the state to achieve gender parity.

They argue that reforms must go deep, and have the backing of local and international NGOs.

Several articles of the criminal code must be amended so that women "can be protected from violence and discrimination," said Amnesty International.

Khadija Ryadi, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, called for a "complete overhaul".

"The principle of equality and non-discrimination must be included in every major law," said Tahri.

Last month, Bassima Hakkaoui, the sole female minister in the government, announced the creation of a commission of "High Authority of Parity" under the constitution.

The "dynamism" is there, said MP Bouayad. "But our concern is the delay."

 

Iran warns Saudi Arabia over possible ground action in Syria

Somalia recaptures key port of Merka from Shebab

Iran reverses mass ban on candidates for parliamentary polls

New photos reveal serious abuse of Iraq prisoners in US facilities

Thousands of Syria refugees brave bad weather at border with Turkey

Egypt returns body of Italian student Giulio Regeni

EU reminds Turkey: Keep your border open to Syria refugees

Palestinian journalist to keep up hunger strike

Iraq’s Sistani to end weekly political sermons

Shebab fighters recapture key port in Somalia

Syria regime forces close in on Daraa

Israeli leaders slam Arab MPs, refuse to return Palestinian corpses

IS jihadists rise in Libya, drop in Iraq and Syria

World powers pledge $10 billion to help war-hit Syrians

Morocco king inaugurates first solar power plant

Saudi ready to send ground troops to Syria

Israel charges cop for exposing woman's ID

Russia accuses Turkey of preparing to invade Syria

Syria talks were an inevitable failure

Saudi says Iranian pilgrims still welcome

Italy demands truth from Egypt over slain student

Fear stalks Libya's Sirte

US adds $890 million to Syria humanitarian aid effort

Tunisia lifts nationwide curfew

Two Israelis jailed for burning Palestinian teen alive

Sweden expects 100,000 asylum seekers in 2016

Turkey refuses access to Russian flight as Aleppo bombardment continues

40,000 Syrians flee Assad regime's Aleppo offensive

US implicitly blames Russia for collapse of Syria peace talks

Rome summons Egypt’s ambassador over student’s death

Israeli forces lock down West Bank town

Two Algerians 'linked to IS' arrested in Germany

Assad regime accused of undermining Syria peace talks

Top Qaeda chief killed in Yemen drone attack

EU agrees on details of Turkey refugee deal as Italy drops objections

Iraq air force receives second batch of F-16 fighter jets

Syria army secures major battlefield victory as peace push falters

Blast on Somalia airliner ‘points to bomb’

In ‘lightening’ raid, Lebanon kills, arrests 22 ISIS members

Three Palestinians, one Israeli killed in Jerusalem

Turkish court acquits academic over 'terrorist propaganda'

Syrian opposition chief arrives in Geneva to join troubled peace talks

Nigeria president warns of Libya ‘time bomb’ for Africa and Europe

Loyalists kill three Qaeda suspects in southern Yemen

Iran, Germany agree on need to cooperate against ‘terrorism’