How This Week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Can Help End Violence Against Women in Morocco

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While Morocco has amended a law that allowed rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims if they are younger than 18, there are still numerous legal and procedural ways in which it actively discriminates against women and girls (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

This blog posting is part of a series Amnesty International USA is publishing to coincide with the U.S.-Africa Summit occurring August 4-6th, 2014. We are utilizing the series to highlight human rights concerns on the continent we feel critically need to be addressed during the summit discussions.

Contributed by Jihane Bergaoui, Amnesty International Country Specialist for Morocco and the Western Sahara

This week, President Obama will welcome nearly every African head of state to Washington, D.C. for the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. As one of America’s oldest and most strategically important allies, Morocco is expected to participate in the conference.

Morocco’s continuous efforts to appear as one of the region’s most stable and progressive countries provide human rights activists and U.S. government officials a unique opportunity to successfully pressure Morocco to end violence against women.

In 2011, thanks to a successful campaign by civil society groups, Morocco made important strides towards advancing women’s rights by enacting a new constitution that guaranteed gender equality. However, there are still numerous legal and procedural ways in which it actively discriminates against women and girls.

It took three more years before the Moroccan parliament voted to amend Article 475 of its Penal Code, a law that allowed rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims if they are younger than 18. This critical change occurred only after mass protests erupted over the death of 16-year-old Amina Filali, who committed suicide by drinking rat poison after being forced into marrying her rapist.

In fact, even the legal punishment for rape in Morocco’s Penal Code oppresses women and girls by shaming survivors for their supposed loss of “honor” rather than providing them equal protection under the law. Alleged rapists who are found guilty of sexually assaulting women and girls who were virgins are sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison.

However, if the victim was not a virgin, the rapist’s sentence can only be 5 to 10 years. Such laws not only stigmatize female survivors of sexual violence, but they also uphold unfair and patriarchal definitions of honor that clearly disadvantage women.

In addition, Morocco’s failure to recognize marital rape as a crime further victimizes countless women who are trapped in abusive marriages. Activists in the women’s rights organizations I have worked with in Morocco recounted numerous barriers they face when trying to help married female survivors of sexual and domestic violence. For example, under Moroccan law, women’s shelters are not legally allowed to hide or harbor a married woman from her abusive husband.

While amending discriminatory legislation is a necessary first step towards successfully ending violence against women in Morocco and the Western Sahara, Amnesty International is also calling on the authorities to provide survivors of sexual and gender-based violence with comprehensive health services and psychological support.

Furthermore, police officers, judges, and prosecutors must be trained in effective methods of stopping and prosecuting such forms of violence. If implemented, these changes will encourage more women to come forward and seek help.

This week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is the perfect opportunity to shed light on the countless abuses experienced by women and girls in Morocco and the Western Sahara. You can take action by signing our online petition to the governments of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria – two other North African countries who have similarly failed to effectively protect women and girls from gender-based violence.

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7 thoughts on “How This Week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Can Help End Violence Against Women in Morocco

  1. And Israel is our (USA) ally? ALL support for this out of control rogue nation should be cut immediately!

    February 2, 2009…12:06 pm

    Israeli Spokesman Says "We Control Stupid Americans"

    By Uruknet

    "Another Israeli spokeswoman, Tzipora Menache, stated that she was not worried about negative ramifications the Israeli onslaught on Gaza might have on the way the Obama administration would view Israel. She said `You know very well, and the stupid Americans know equally well, that we control their government, irrespective of who sits in the White House. You see, I know it and you know it that no American president can be in a position to challenge us even if we do the unthinkable. What can they (Americans) do to us? We control congress, we control the media, we control show biz, and we control everything in America. In America you can criticize God, but you can't criticize Israel."

  2. Can A.I. do an indictment against the State Of Israel to the International Court of Justice for crimes committed in Gaza??

  3. Please Voice Out

    Please Voice out against genocide and against them who killed innocent people child and women demolishing human right. Our policy makers are expert to make the conflict rather than to solve. How they will seek or protest against the genocide, it may hamper them from their dependent friend in other side.
    They love to criticize and decelerating the human development. Rather than accelerating economy and establishing human right and voice out against genocide killing innocent people child and women
    We didn’t support terrorist extremist peace destroyer group, we respect human and their fundamental right without color, and free religious believe and practice with their traditional custom and culture with respect each other.
    We are seeking world humanitarian organizations and people to open up their mind and eyes to resolve and stop genocide in Gaza, Palestine immediately.

  4. The same problem persists in India also. In most of the cases, a rapist proposes to marry the victim when he finds no suitable way to get rid of. Shockingly, some Courts in India helps the accused to materialize his evading proposal. A.I. India should take up this issue.