Justice minister says legislation to stop the practice is still underway
Originally posted in Al Jazeera America – Nov. 22, 2013
A Moroccan teen committed suicide last month after her family forced her to marry her rapist, rights activists told Al Jazeera after reports of her death surfaced in the North African kingdom’s media on Friday.
The suicide happened amid protracted efforts to repeal a law, Article 475 of the Moroccan Penal Code, exonerating rapists who marry their victims, after the high-profile suicide last year of another teen, Amina Filali.
In March 2012, 16-year-old Filali killed herself in the northern town of Larache by taking rat poison after she was forced to marry her rapist. Her death provoked several demonstrations and the Twitter hashtag #RIPAmina to demand the repeal of Article 475.
The 16-year-old girl who died last month was from the northern port city of Tetouan and was raped by another minor, according to Abdel Ali El-Allawi, director of the local chapter of the international NGO the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH).
The girl’s family has refused to grant interviews to the press.
“He was put in prison,” said Allawi. “The family of the rapist entered negotiations with the family of the victim. They proposed the two get married.”
“These are things that are common here in Morocco. When a man rapes a woman or girl, the justice authorities say, you have a choice — you can marry the girl or go to prison.”
According to Article 475, a rapist can avoid a prison sentence by marrying his victim. The law is based on a similar measure in France, repealed in 1994. Morocco was a protectorate of France until 1956.
In Moroccan society, a woman who loses her virginity — even by rape — is considered unmarriageable, explained AMDH president Khadija Riyadi.
“There’s a mentality that says that a girl that’s no longer a virgin is worthless,” she said.
For families who cannot afford to financially support an unmarriageable daughter, arranging for her to marry her assailant may feel like the only solution, Riyadi added.
“The girl is a victim of tradition and society — but also the law,” said Allawi.
Both Riyadi and Allawi thought Article 475 had already been modified to bar rapists from escaping prison terms, but Morocco’s justice minister told Al Jazeera the legislation is still waiting to be passed by lawmakers.
“Until now, it’s still just a law project that’s being considered by parliament but hasn’t been rectified. We have not yet formally edited the article,” Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid told Al Jazeera on the phone from Rabat.
On Friday, Morocco’s King Mohamed VI is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington to further relations between the two nations. Despite a number of concerns raised by international human rights advocates about Mohamed’s kingdom, Morocco enjoys strong diplomatic ties with the United States, primarily based on its cooperation in efforts to combat North African armed groups.