Good Human Rights News From Morocco

Morocco has amended its penal code to remove a loophole that protected men from prison sentences for statutory rape if they married their victim:

Article 475 provides for a prison term of one to five years for anyone who “abducts or deceives” a minor “without violence, threat or fraud, or attempts to do so”.

But the second clause of the article specifies that when the victim marries the perpetrator, “he can no longer be prosecuted except by persons empowered to demand the annulment of the marriage and then only after the annulment has been proclaimed”. This effectively prevents prosecutors from independently pursuing rape charges.

This of course is only the beginning of steps necessary to end gender-based violence and bring gender equality:

In conservative rural parts of Morocco, an unmarried girl or woman who has lost her virginity – even through rape – is considered to have dishonoured her family and no longer suitable for marriage. Some families believe that marrying the rapist addresses these problems.

While welcoming the move, rights groups say that much still needs to be done to promote gender equality, protect women and outlaw child marriage in the North African country.

“It’s a very important step. But it’s not enough,” Fatima Maghnaoui, who heads a group supporting women victims of violence, told the AFP news agency.

“We are campaigning for a complete overhaul of the penal code for women.”

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