Moroccan women protest discriminatory rape laws

Hundreds of women took to the streets of the Moroccan capital Rabat on Saturday, urging parliament to revoke a law on sexual violence.

Just a day earlier, Morocco had announced that it would modify a law that allows rapists to marry their underage female victims, a decision that came in light of the recent suicide of 16-year-old rape victim, Amina el-Filali.

“We want a new law. We also want an end to rape in Morocco but that can be possible until this law is removed. We want a law that punishes the criminal and protects the rights of Moroccan women,” said Amina’s sister Hamida who joined the protest on Saturday.

Filali committed suicide last week in the northern town of Larache by consuming rat poison after being forced to marry her rapist.

“Amina Filali’s suicide brought to the foreground this question that exists and was known. For a long time, we called on the feminist movement to bring an end to it but nobody was listening to us. Today, this tragedy contributed to the awakening of the conscience and alerted both public opinion and citizens. Today, everyone is talking about this issue and everyone is asking for article 475 to be abolished from the penal law,” said women rights activist Amina Jebabdi.

Rape victims in Morocco have to prove to authorities that they did not participate in consensual sex. They are also stigmatized and given meager social assistance. A convicted rapist can face five to 10 years in prison, but up to 20 if the victim is a minor.

In 2004, a reformed family law gained praise for increasing women’s rights, but has been depleted by predominantly conservative male judges, and proper law enforcement on physical abuse, which has left many to question the effectiveness of gender reforms.

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