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."

 

Saudi king unveils austerity drive

Clinton, Trump clash in fiery first presidential debate

Supplies dwindle, strikes intensify in Syria's Aleppo

Morocco’s main secular party takes on ruling Islamists

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

Moroccan gets death threat messages over cartoon posted by killed Jordanian

Israel prosecutor general denies going easy on PM

Iran frees Iranian-Canadian academic

Rebels, civilians quit Homs under deal with regime

Oman court closes national newspaper, jails three journalists

Israel-US consortium signs $10 billion gas deal with Jordan

Closure of Palestinian pages sparks Facebook censorship fears

British FM on key visit to Turkey

Ten Turkish soldiers killed in PKK attacks

Jordanians protest over writer's murder

Moniz says Washington has met its side of Iran nuclear deal

Coalition prefers final Yemen settlement to 'short' truce

Deutsche Welle sues Turkey over confiscated interview

Palestinians condemn Trump vow on Jerusalem

Iran conservatives advise Ahmadinejad to stay out of election

Moscow slams 'unacceptable' UN statements on Syria

Yemeni forces kill suspected Qaeda chief

Bulgaria court error delays trial over Hezbollah bombing

Oil prices rise modestly ahead of OPEC meeting

Qatari official banned from AFC vote

Trump says he'll recognize Jerusalem as Israel's 'undivided' capital

US, Russia split on Syria’s Aleppo carnage

Death toll from Egypt migrant shipwreck jumps to 168

Warplanes pound Aleppo ahead of UN Syria meeting

Dubai drops charges against Briton who promoted charity

Israel sentences Islamic cleric for incitement

Turkey sets precondition for joining US Raqa operation

Campaigning for parliamentary polls begins in Morocco

EU mission to train Libya coastguard faces delay

Gunman kills prominent writer on steps of courthouse in Jordan

Mosul offensive to start in ‘next few weeks’

New wave of air strikes pummels Aleppo

US, Russia trade blame for collapse of ceasefire in Syria

Hadi vows to ‘extract Yemen from claws of Iran’

Obama vetoes bill allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia

Morocco asks to rejoin African Union

Air raids pound rebel-held Aleppo

Turkey arrests prominent writer brothers

Egypt shipwreck death toll rises to 133

Gulen says will return to Turkey if US backs extradition