Friday, April 20, 2012

Morocco: Women Protest Archacic Law That Permits Rapists to Marry Their Victims

Some 200 Moroccan women staged an angry protest outside Parliament last weekend in Rabat, a week after the suicide of a 16-year-old girl who was forced to marry the man who had raped her, with her parents consent.

The protesters advocated for dramatic changes in the Moroccan penal code that allows a rapist to stay out of jail if he marries his victim.

The suicide on April 14, of Amina al-Filali, 16, who drank a lethal amount of rat poison, sent shock waves through Morocco and sparked widespread calls for reform of a law that appears to defend family values.

COMMENT: Sadly, Moroccan culture and law often permits the families of rape victims who are under 18 often agree to such a union because the loss of a woman's virginity outside of marriage is considered a dishonor to the family. Amina's father, Lahcen al-Filali, had opposed the marriage, but his wife had insisted their daughter marry her rapist.

In a sharp editorial, the independent AL SABAH, was quoted as saying: "It's the law, an absurd, grotesque social rule, that tries to remedy an evil, rape, with another even more repugnant one, marrying the rapist.....Whom are we punishing in the end, the victim or her tormentor?" it asked its readers.

To make matters worse, after Amina's suicide, Moroccan police released the rapist.

Under Moroccan law, rape is punishable by five to 10 years in prison, or between 10 and 20 years if the victim is a minor, which also entails a ridiculous fine of 200 to 500 dirhams (18-45 euros, US$24-60). If the rapist marries his victim he cannot be pursued legally unless she later obtains a divorce after she is of age.

Unfortunately, the practice of granting a rapist immunity from prosecution if he marries the minor woman he raped, is not limited to Morocco. The practice is also permitted in Algeria and Tunisia.

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