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(Jan 15, 2014) On January 9, 2014, Morocco's parliamentary Justice and Human Rights Commission proposed amending the country's law on abduction and rape. (Addison Morris, Morocco Considers Amending Rape Law, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Jan. 10, 2014).) The revision would affect article 475 of the Penal Code; that article currently makes it possible for people to avoid charges for having kidnapped or seduced minors under the age of 18 if they later marry their victims. Prosecution of a rapist in such circumstances would only be possible if the marriage is annulled. (Id.; Code Pénal (Nov. 26, 1962), World Intellectual Property Organization website.)

The previous law is said to be tied to the belief that the loss of virginity outside of wedlock is shameful to the woman's family; often members of their families force victims to go through the marriages. (Moroccan Women Stage Protest Against Rape Laws, FRANCE 24 (Mar. 17, 2012).) The reform proposal was announced one year after a government promise, issued by Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid, to amend the Code. (Morocco Considers Amending Rape Law, supra; Addison Morris, Morocco to Change Rape Law Allowing Marriage, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Jan. 24, 2013).) Calls for change in the Code had followed a 2012 incident in which a teenager committed suicide by drinking rat poison, after being forced by her family to marry the man who raped her. Among the actions taken by those seeking change were an online petition and a protest demonstration of 200 women outside the legislature. (Moroccan Women Stage Protest Against Rape Laws, supra.)

Commenting after the 2013 announcement of the plan to change article 475 of the Code, Khadija Ryadi, the head of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, argued that even more reform was necessary. She stated, "[c]hanging this article is a good thing but it doesn't meet all of our demands. … The penal code has to be totally reformed because it contains many provisions that discriminate against women and doesn't protect women against violence." (Morocco to Change Rape Marriage Law, AL JAZEERA (Jan. 24, 2013).) The Association consists of 92 sections, with a total of 10,000 members. (Who We Are, Moroccan Association for Human Rights (last visited Jan. 13, 2014).)

The Democratic League for Women's Rights, founded in Morocco in 1993, has been advocating the reform of article 475 for years. Its president, Fouzia Assouli, agreed with Ryadi's assessment that more change is needed, stating that the law "doesn't recognise certain forms of violence against women, such as conjugal rape, while it still penalises other normal behaviour like sex outside of marriage between adults." (Morocco to Change Rape Marriage Law, supra; Women in Morocco Can Advance Better: Activist, AL ARABIYA NEWS (Mar. 7, 2009).)

Author: Constance Johnson More by this author
Topic: Crime and law enforcement More on this topic
 Criminal code More on this topic
 Crimes against women More on this topic
 Sex offenses More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Morocco More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 01/15/2014