According to Moroccan law, a paragraph in Article 475 of the penal code allows those convicted of “corruption” or “kidnapping” of a minor to go free if they marry their victim. The practice has been encouraged by judges to spare the family from shame.
On March 10, 2012, 16-year-old rape victim Amina Filali drank rat poison after being forced to marry the man who raped her.
Moroccan women’s groups are hoping that the government will reform the law that allows rapists to avoid charges if they marry their victims.
“I think this is a good step and hopefully it won’t just be lip service but actual change,” said Amal Boujani, 28.
For Moroccan women, the debate over women’s rights has become a major concern over the past year.
“Changing this article is a good thing but it doesn’t meet all of our demands,” said Khadija Ryadi, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. “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 explains that the code only penalizes violence against women from a moral standpoint and not because it is just violence.
“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,” she added.
Recent government statistics reported that 50 percent of attacks against women occur within conjugal relations.
“In 550 cases of the corruption of minors between 2009 and 2010, only seven were married under Article 475 of the penal code, the rest were pursued by justice,” said Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane.
Anti-rape demonstrations have been staged in the largest cities, attended mainly by women. The U.N. office in Morocco declared that marriage laws should be modernized, and the left-wing Socialist Union of Popular Forces party has petitioned for a parliamentary investigation mandated to recommend amendments.