Saturday, April 7, 2012
Rape, Marriage and Suicide the case of 16 year old Moroccan girl
Raped at 15 by a man 10 years older to her, later forced to marry him, Amina Filali finally died on March 10 in a Northern Morocco hospital after swallowing rat poison. The obvious reason for the death is poison but so as the Article 475 of Moroccan Penal Code which permits the rapist to go without any punishment if he agrees to marry the victim. In this case also same thing happened, but after five months of married life Amina committed suicide.
According to the Human Rights Watch's report 'Article 475 provides for a prison term of one to five years for a person who “abducts or deceives a minor, less than 18 years of age, without violence, threat or fraud, or attempts to do so.” However, the second clause of that article specifies that when the minor marries the man, “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.” That clause effectively prevents the prosecutor from independently pursuing rape charges.'(#1)
475 is not the only section in Morocco's penal code depriving women of her rights. 490 and 496 are equally problematic. 490 criminalise consensual sex between unmarried people. That means, if a woman loss the case of rape in court, she can be prosecuted for having sex outside the marriage!!! An easiest was for branding a victim as a criminal. Article 496 punishes anyone who “knowingly hides or subverts the search for a married woman who is evading the authority to which she is legally subject.”(#1). In short a person can be punished if he/she tried to give shelter to a married woman facing severe domestic abuse.
The problem is not limited to Morocco; sexual and other types of violence against women both minor and major are often neglected in many countries. The main problem is the lifelong taboo society forcefully stamped on the victim. Instead of viewing the victim of rape (or any other sexual violence) through the eyes of sympathy society often consider her as dishonour to her family. The victim is forced to suffer the lifelong trauma of both violence and social treatment.
Time is already over for deleting these types of repressive laws from the books. Simply changing the law will not help; society has to change the attitude. Looking the victims through the glasses of liability and dishonour will only lead to the destruction of moral values. We can hope that this tragic death and subsequent protests in the streets will open the eyes of administration to change the law.
1. Morocco: Girl’s Death Highlights Flawed Laws
2. In Morocco, the rape and death of an adolescent girl prompts calls for changes to the penal code
3. Death of Rape Victim in Morocco Sparks Calls for Legal Reform
Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia, later edited to suit this article