By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
RABAT, Morocco –There once was a time in Morocco where a rapist could avoid any charges against him, if he were to marry his victim. The times, they are changing, as is Moroccan rape law.
The tradition that safeguarded the rapists was codified in Article 475 of the penal code which stated that those who were found to have “corrupted” or “kidnapped” a minor could go free if they married the victim. This practice was encouraged by the courts of Morocco because of the antediluvian judgment that a woman’s loss of virginity out-of-wedlock would tarnish the respect of the family.
The strict translation of Article 475 from French reads, “When a minor removed or diverted married her captor, the latter cannot be prosecuted on the complaint of persons entitled to apply for annulment of marriage and cannot be sentenced until after the cancellation of marriage has been pronounced.”
This effort to change the law comes approximately a year after sixteen-year-old Amina al-Filali killed herself with rat poison after she was forced into an abusive marriage with Moustapha Fellak, whom had previously raped her.
Women’s rights activists are happy to see reform in this law, but are still calling for many more changes to be made. President of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, Fouzia Assouli, explained that, “the code only penalizes violence against women from a moral standpoint, ‘and not because it is just violence’.”
For instance, the new article that was just proposed carries a twenty-year penalty for consensual sex that follows the corruption of a minor that results in “deflowering,” but carries only a ten-year penalty if no “deflowering” occurs. Similarly, there are no penalties for conjugal or marital rape, whereas nearly fifty percent of all attacks against women take place between married couples.
Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane defends his country and its practices by insisting that the change in law is more a formality than a dramatic departure from current practices. He claims that, “in five-hundred and fifty cases of corruption of minors between 2009 and 2010, only seven were married under Article 475 of the penal code, the rest were pursued by justice.”
Before the amended article becomes law, it must be passed by both houses of parliament. Parliament has been slow in the past at passing laws on women’s rights, as a law to combat violence against women has been neglected by parliament for the past eight years.
For further information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Morocco to Change Rape Marriage law – 24 January 2013
Feminist – Morocco to Change Rape law that Forces Marriage – 24 January 2013
Jurist – Morocco to Change Rape law Allowing Marriage – 24 January 2013
National Sexual Violence Resource Center – Morocco Plan to Change Rape Marriage law – 23 January 2013