The Moroccan Justice Ministry is expected to support a proposal to amend an article in the penal code. The decision stemmed from the suicide of 16 year old Amina Filali, who killed herself after she was forced to marry her rapist.
Article 475 states:
“Whoever, without violence, threats or fraud, abducts or attempts to remove or divert a minor under eighteen years, is punished by imprisonment of one to five years and a fine of 200 to 500 Dirhams. When a nubile minor is removed or diverted marries her captor, the latter may only be prosecuted when a complaint if filed by a person(s) entitled to apply for annulment of marriage and cannot be sentenced until after the annulment of marriage been pronounced.”
The article makes it legal for an individual to only serve one to five years in prison for abducting or deceiving a minor without violence or a threat. This includes rape. If the minor decides to marry the perpetrator, the perpetrator will not serve their sentence unless an annulment is demanded.
Culturally there is a bigger issue with rape. Traditionally if an unmarried girl or woman loses her virginity, even through rape, she is seen as dishonoring her family and not fit for marriage. Many families believe marrying the rapist provides an exception.
The Justice Ministry has now suggested to amend the law and sentence any individual who commits rape for 30 years in prison. Many women in Morocco believe that the reformation of the law will not be complete if the provisions that discriminate against women and does not protect them from violence is not amended as well.
Although the amending of Article 475 does not entirely bring justice to Amina, it is a stepping stone and will save many other women. One must understand that culture and tradition dominates law. This law will hopefully allow many Moroccans to reconsider the terms of marriage after a woman has been raped. The law also is a demonstration of the government’s changing view of women and understanding their responsibility to protect women in a traditional patriarchal society. Through action, many will follow. The reformation for Article 475 will have an impact on the entire continent and change the way the government and many others view women in their society.