Friday, January 25, 2013

Morocco To Amend Rape/Marriage Law

Amina al-Filali was the 16-year-old Moroccan girl who was victimized twice by being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her- 25-year-old Moustapha Fellak. Not only had he raped her, he continued to be abusive during seven months of marriage, and she wound up committing suicide by consuming rat poison, although her mother believes she was forced to drink the poison.

Outraged by what happened to Amina, women's rights activists mobilized to make changes to article 475 of the Moroccan penal code which allows rapists to basically walk free if they marry their victims. The hard work of activists seems to have paid off: the justice ministry is finally poised to make some amendments to Article 475, along with considering harsher prison sentences for rape of minors. As it stands now:

Article 475 provides for a prison term of one to five years for anyone who "abducts or deceives" a minor "without violence, threat or fraud, or attempts to do so".

However, the second clause of the article specifies that when the victim marries the perpetrator, "he can no longer be prosecuted except by persons empowered to demand the annulment of the marriage and then only after the annulment has been proclaimed". This effectively prevents prosecutors from independently pursuing rape charges.
Any changes to the penal code must be approved by both houses of parliament.

Although the justice ministry argued at the time that the sex between the girl and her rapist was consensual, if true, wouldn't she have welcomed marriage?  As for the marriage, the justice ministry had stated that the father had asked for the implementation of Article 475, and that Amina and Moustapha were agreeable,  which then ended the rape investigation. Whereas the father claimed that the prosecutor had advised the girl to marry.  Mum, of course, felt her child was dishonored (whether it had been consensual or not), and therefore not marriage material: "I couldn't allow my daughter to have no future and stay unmarried." 

Initially, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane wasn't too keen on changing the code, since it's not used very often, but the justice ministry has gone ahead with a proposal for an amendment.  This has made activists happy, but only to a certain extent, since it doesn't go far enough.

The step was welcomed by the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.

"Changing this article is a good thing but it doesn't meet all of our demands," the organisation's president, Khadija Ryadi, told the Associated Press.

"The penal code has to be totally reformed because it contains many provisions that discriminate against women and doesn't protect women against violence," she added.

Ms Ryadi noted that the new article proposed by the justice ministry distinguished between "rape resulting in 'deflowering' and just plain rape".

Fouzia Assouli, head of the Democratic League for Women's Rights, said: "The law doesn't recognise certain forms of violence against women, such as conjugal rape, while it still penalises other normal behaviour like sex outside of marriage between adults."

Most laws in those countries favor men, including this one. Of course the rapist is going to consent to marriage, why wouldn't he, he gets off scott free for violating a young girl, marries her and can continue abusing her- which often happens-  without punishment.

But rape victims in some countries have it even worse. In Afghanistan they have a choice of marriage or jail if they're not killed by their families first.  Although she was eventually freed, 19-year-old Gulnaz was initially offered twelve years in jail, or marry her rapist. What a choice.

H/T The Good Men Project

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