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A Loophole For Rapists Is Eliminated In Morocco

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MOROCCO – January 23,2014; Moroccan Parliament voted unanimously to amend a law that allows a man convicted of statutory rape to escape punishment if he marries his under-age victim. Absent the marriage, the law, known as Article 475, mandates only a few years of prison and a small fine. With the vote, the terms of punishment remain, but the exoneration clause has been deleted.

Pressure on the government to amend the law began after Amina Filali, 16, forced by her parents and a judge to marry the man she said had raped her at knife point, swallowed rat Poison in March 2012.

Khadija Rouissi, a woman in Parliament, praised the decision in a commentary on the website PanoraMaroc. “On this day, I have a thought for Amina Filali and all women who have been victims of this legislative aberration, and we must honor their memory,” she said. “The battle that we won today should continue. We must deal with social issues with courage and also accompany the evolution of values in our society.”

While activists applauded the change, many said that it did not go far enough and that all laws governing rape should mandate heavier sentences.

Stephanie Willman Bordat, a founding partner at Mobilizing for Rights Associates, a Morocco-based nongovernmental organization, said other laws were also outdated. Many Moroccan women are reluctant to report rape at all because sex is illegal outside marriage.

“This changes one paragraph in an article when there are a lot of articles that need to be changed,” she said. “Article 490 still makes it illegal to have sexual relations outside of marriage, which pressures the minor victims of rape and all rape victims, even adults, not to bring charges.”

Ten years ago, the country adopted a family code that was seen as progressive at the time. It raised the minimum age for marriage to 18 from 15, and it gave women more rights in divorce and child custody cases. But conservative judges and attitudes have made putting these laws into practice challenging, as many families prefer to marry daughters off rather than let people know that they were raped or that they had lost their virginity. According to workers for nongovernmental organizations, judicial authorizations for marriage of minors have been granted in about 90 percent of requests.

Earlier this week, the Justice Ministry issued a statement supporting the amendment of Article 475, pledging to push for heavier penalties for rape.

Ms. Willman Bordat said the government needed to follow up on its promises to criminalize violence against women and protect pregnant unmarried girls.

“We need to not stigmatize the mother and child who is born outside of wedlock,” she said. “That will have to be addressed also.”

News from : nytimes.com

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