Morocco rape victim suicide spurs calls for reform
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 20/03/12
Hundreds of protestors rallied in Rabat on Saturday (March 17th) to press for a review of the legal exemption allowing a rapist to marry his victim, following the suicide of a Tangier teenage girl.
Amina al-Filali, 16, drank rat poison last week in Larache, after being forced to marry her rapist. Under Moroccan law, rape is punishable by several years in prison if the victim is a minor. Marriage to the victim, however, shields the perpetrator from prosecution.
"This girl was raped twice, the last time when she was married," Communication Minister and government spokesman Mustapha El Khelfi said. "We cannot ignore this tragedy."
The case unleashed a nationwide debate on the need for legal reforms and attitudinal changes.
Minister of Solidarity, Women and Family Bassima Hakkaoui – the sole female member of the government – called on March 15th national television for a "debate to reform the law".
Activists set up an online petition to demand the law's repeal or revision, under the title: "We are all Amina al-Filali".
Under Article 475 of Morocco's penal code, when an under-age girl is forced to marry her rapist, he can only be prosecuted if a complaint comes from a person of a certain social status.
Women's associations call for changing the law so that rapists can no longer avoid punishment by marrying their victims.
According to the Moroccan Human Rights Organisation (OMDH), getting a young woman to marry her rapist is an unlawful act, both morally and socially. An arrangement of this kind can only amplify the victim's psychological suffering.
Najat Anouar, who chairs the "Touche pas à mon enfant" (Don't touch my child) association, said that families think they are saving the girl's honour by marrying her off to her attacker.
"So we want a law which automatically outlaws under-age marriage," she said.
Lahcen Filali, the father of the girl, wants justice to be delivered.
"With the support of the associations, I'm going to follow this through to the end, to bring about justice for my daughter," he said.
Meanwhile, the justice ministry insisted the public prosecutor had refrained from taking action after considering the best interests of the minor.
Apart from the legal aspect, however, efforts need to be made to change attitudes, argued sociologist Samira Kassimi. People point fingers at a girl who was raped instead of trying to console her, she said. Amina's case is a prime example. The girl's mother said that her aim was to safeguard the girl's honour by marrying her off.
Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.