It has been well documented that countries around the world have either embraced the advancements of women’s rights or they have never acknowledged that inalienable rights apply to women as well. Many governments structure their laws on a patriarchal structure and often women are treated as second rate citizens. The defenders of the way the law is structured claim that it is their culture, this is the way it has always been, and it is going to stay that way. However, in many countries, women and human rights groups have been fighting back against the idea of keeping the laws the way they are because “that’s how it always been”. The example in this blog is the victory in Morocco and the defeat of a controversial rape law.
Article 475 of the Morocco Penal Code had a very backward and nonsensical provision. That provision, a convenient loophole, stated that if a man rapes an underage girl, that man can walk free if the victim marries her assailant. Essentially freeing the rapist from facing accountability. These marriages can and have been done. The practice of forced marriages is practiced in North Africa and the Middle East when a women loses her virginity and brings dishonor to her family. In some cases judges and/or the victim’s family force the rape victim to marry her assailant as a way to restore her family’s honor. Rape victims are also discouraged from filing rape complaints because they can be prosecuted for having sex outside of marriage. The law was based on a French archetype, overturned in 1994. Morocco was protectorate of France until the North African kingdom achieved independence in 1956. (Al Jazeera).
The Moroccan Parliament was pressured by many women and human rights groups, such as Amnesty International. The outcry began after the case of Amina al-Filali, a 16 year old rape victim. She was forced to marry her 23 year old rapist and after seventeen months of the forced marriage with her rapist, Amina al-Filali committed suicide. Amnesty International claimed that several underage girls have been driven to suicide due to being forced to marry their rapist. After much public outcry and protest, the Moroccan Parliament unanimously amended the law that made underage rape victims a “double victim” by closing the loophole.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, commented on the Parliament’s decision to close the loophole by saying, “We hope (the) vote signals a complete shift in the way rape survivors are treated and that more measures will follow.” (Reuters) Do you agree with Sahraoui in that more countries that have laws that effectively penalize rape victims will follow Morocco’s lead and change their laws?