Last March 16-year-old Moroccan teen Amina al-Filali committed suicide by ingesting poison in order to escape from her 7-month marriage to a 23-year old who she alleged had raped her.
Amina’s case shocked Morocco and human rights activists called for a change in the law that allows rapists to marry their victims to avoid punishment and family shame.
A paragraph in Article 475 of Morocco’s penal code allows those convicted of “corruption” or “kidnapping” a minor the chance to evade a jail term if they agree to marry their victim. For many years, this outdated practice has been encouraged by judges and even sometimes the victim’s families, as is it is seen as a way of protecting “family honor”.
Unfortunately, the North African kingdom of Morocco is not the only place that allows rapists to marry their victims, it is found in several countries throughout the Middle East and India. It tends to occur in places where the loss of a woman’s virginity out of wedlock is seen as massive stain on the honor of a tribe or family.
Now though, nearly a year after Amina al-Filali took her own life because she could no longer bear being married to the man who raped her, the Moroccan government has announced plans to change the penal code in order to outlaw this practice.
Initially Morocco’s Islamic-dominated government refused to bow to the demands of the public that called for a change in the law after Amina’s suicide. The Justice Ministry at the time attempted to argue that the teen had not been raped and that the sex (which took place when she was 15) was consensual. The government also argued that the marriage provision in the article 475 was very rarely used. Now however, they have accepted that the practice needs to be outlawed!
Women’s rights activists welcomed the Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid’s announcement regarding the reform. However they said it was just a “first step” and called for further reforms to the penal code because it does not do enough to prevent violence against women.
Khadija Ryadi, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, said:
“Changing this article is a good thing but it doesn’t meet all of our demands…The penal code has to be totally reformed because it contains many provisions that discriminate against women and doesn’t protect women against violence.”
Fouzia Assouli, president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, reiterated the concerns expressed by Ryadi, she argued that the law was constructed to penalize violence against women from a moral standpoint and not because it is violence. Assouli said:
“The law doesn’t recognize certain forms of violence against women, such as conjugal rape, while it still penalizes other normal behavior like sex outside of marriage between adults.”
Source: Associated Press