HAPPENING NOW: Mozambique Debating Rape-Marriage Legislation

This month, Mozambique’s Parliament debates proposed revisions to Article 223 of the country’s Criminal Code which would allow rapists to escape punishment if they marry the survivor of the rape (Photo Credit: AFP/GettyImages).

This month, Mozambique’s Parliament debates proposed revisions to Article 223 of the country’s Criminal Code which would allow rapists to escape punishment if they marry the survivor of the rape (Photo Credit: AFP/GettyImages).

Imagine if you reported a rape, only to discover the law is on the side of your rapist.

A couple months ago, we shared the story of Amina Filali, a 16-year-old girl in Morocco who was forced to marry the man who raped her. Months after being married, Amina committed suicide by swallowing rat poison. Amina’s death caused an outcry in Morocco and throughout the region.

In January, nearly two years after Amina’s death, the widely-criticized clause in Morocco’s Penal Code sanctioning the marriage was finally abolished.

But elsewhere in Africa, the struggle is far from over.

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Closing Morocco’s Rape Loophole is Just the First Step

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

By Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program. This post originally appeared in the International Business Times

Amina Filali was just 16 years old when, in the depths of despair, she decided to take her own life.

Several months earlier the teenager from Morocco had been forced to marry a man whom she said had raped her.

In March 2012, Amina lost all hope. She swallowed rat poison in her hometown of Larache and died shortly afterwards.

Up until last week, men accused of rape in Morocco were able to escape prosecution by marrying their victim, if the girl was aged under 18.

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THIS EXISTS: Law Allows Rapists to Escape Prison If They Marry Underage Victims

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

Zohra Filali holds a picture of her daughter, Amina, the week after she committed suicide. Amina took her own life by drinking rat poison in March 2012 after being forced to marry the man who allegedly raped her.

Amina Filali committed suicide by swallowing rat poison in March 2012. She was 16 years old. Her desperate act showed the depth of her pain and despair: she must have felt that nobody was there to help her.

We soon learned that Amina had been raped in her small Moroccan town, by a man she was then forced to marry. Imagine being married to your rapist, to be forced to see that person all the time – it would be devastating.

He married her because Moroccan law allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim, if she is aged under 18.

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Friends, Neighbors and the Fight Against Torture

Many Amnesty International members have long experience with the challenge of opposing state-sponsored torture in other countries.  But when human rights activists in North Carolina found that a trail of torture led to their own backdoor, they learned that talking to neighbors about human rights abuses is just as difficult as challenging a foreign government.

The Washington Post last week featured a story, “Hangar 3′s Mystery” about the work of North Carolina Stop Torture Now to document the activities of a small, nominally private air charter company, Aero Contractors,  whose headquarters are at an airfield in Smithfield, North Carolina.

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Great News! Prisoner Of Conscience Chekib El-Khiari Released In Morocco

Chekib El Khiari © Private

Late last week, the Moroccan King pardoned prisoner of conscience Chekib El-Khiari, who was serving a three year prison sentence for speaking out against government corruption.

Amnesty suspects that the charges against Check El-Khiari were politically motivated, as he had brought allegations against Moroccan officials in connection to a drug ring. Jailed since June 2009, Chekib El-Khiari was greeted by family and friends upon release.

The pardon came as part of a wider movement that commuted or shortened the sentences of 190 prisoners in Morocco, 96 of whom were reportedly released.

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Fighting Back Against Sexual Assaults in Western Sahara

Hayat Erguibi. Photo courtesy of the Sahrawi Organization of Human Rights Defenders

Hayat Erguibi. Photo courtesy of the Sahrawi Organization of Human Rights Defenders

Many young women in Western Sahara are believed to have suffered sexual assaults and other abuses at the hands of Moroccan occupying forces and police, but Hayat Erguibi is different.  She refused to remain silent.

Given the stigmatism of rape or molestation within the conservative Islamic culture of the Western Saharans or Sahrawis, such humiliation at the hands of foreign occupiers prevents victims from stepping forward. It has also been charged that women are threatened by Moroccan forces if they dare to speak out.

Erguibi so dared.  On Feb. 24, she went to a local human rights organization a statement detailing accusations against Moroccan police of detaining, intimidating and sexually violating her on Feb. 22.   A Norwegian NGO later confirmed the story.

The Moroccan government, responding to the claim, fiercely denied the accusations to Reuters several days later.

But Erguibi didn’t stop there. She has allowed local Western Saharan rights groups to disseminate her photo and a video of her testimony was recently posted (with Spanish subtitles). In her testimony, she recalled that Moroccan police threatened to kill her if she publicized her attack.

Amnesty USA has long been concerned about Moroccan abuses in the part of Western Sahara under its control. Amnesty’s position with respect to the Western Saharan territorial dispute between Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front is neutral.