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."

 

Arab leaders meet in Sweimeh on conflicts, 'terror'

No unanimity on Syria ahead of Arab Summit

4 besieged Syria towns to be evacuated under deal

Tunisians demand Muslim marriage decree revoked

Historic Casablanca buildings crumbling in silence

US arrests Turkish banker for helping Iran violate sanctions

Turkey voices opposition to Kurdish flag in Kirkuk

Engineers to carry out urgent maintenance on IS-held Syria dam

Palestinian president meets Trump envoy at Arab summit

UN says over 300 civilians killed since start of west Mosul offensive

Disputed Iraqi province votes to fly Kurdish flag

Germany laments Turkey's 'unacceptable' spying

Syria opposition says no peace deal without US role

Turkey sends delegation to UK over electronics ban

UN chief urges Arab leaders to confront Syria war

Carlos the Jackal sentenced to life for Paris bombing

Arab League set to oppose Trump Israel embassy shift

Tributes flood in for anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada

US vows to never allow 'Israel-bashing' at UN

Netanyahu ban on MP visits to flashpoint holy site challenged

IS launches counter-attack to defend north Syria town

Saudi intercepts four ‘smuggled’ Yemen rebel missiles

Saudi to set up investment fund to help Jordan

Iran slams Bahrain terror cell claims as ‘delusional’

UN says 30 million unsure of next meal in MENA region

Putin to meet Iran President in Moscow

US, allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

Germany’s Turks cast early ballots for Erdogan referendum

German court convicts Pakistani of spying for Iran

Qatar to invest £5bn in UK within five years

'Kill Erdogan' banner probed in Switzerland, Turkey

Arab League chief urges resolution to Syria conflict

Serious challenges for Arab leaders in Amman

Israel arrests 22 ultra-Orthodox sex offenders

Syrian forces pause offensive on IS-held dam for repairs

Dubai's Emaar Malls offers $800m to buy Souq.com

Iraq launches fresh Mosul Old City advance

US-backed fighters battle IS near north Syria town

Hamas partially reopens Beit Hanoun crossing

Iraq investigates Mosul civilian deaths

In Algeria, everyone wants to be MP, few likely to vote

Yemeni rebel supporters flood streets on conflict’s anniversary

Syria fighting damages IS-held dam posing rising water risk

Iran to symbolically sanction 15 US companies