Amina Filali was a 16-year-old girl who was raped. When her story was brought before a judge, he ordered that Amina marry her rapist, which fell under something called Article 475 in the Moroccan penal code. It allows judges to contract underage marriages in certain circumstances. This one was contracted out of a religious stand point that a woman must remain chaste.
After the marriage, Amina committed suicide, and her death has prompted Moroccan feminists to act. Fatima Outaleb is one of those feminists; she sits on the board of directors of Union de L’Action Feminine, an organization in the Moroccan city of Rabat that is aimed at stopping discrimination against women. She is also in charge of a shelter that helps women victimized by domestic violence, rape, incest and other forms of abuse.
Fatima and other activists are pushing to get Article 475 banned. She says, “Just think of a perpetrator who is supposed to be punished and go to jail, instead he can marry that girl? But the government is still debating it. It’s a violation of children’s rights, in the name of honor, I don’t know what, to put a girl in the hands of her perpetrator.”
Fatima says it’s important for Morocco to take this step in banning Article 475, because it has been seen as a leader in changing legal framework to be fairer when it comes to women. But this law, and the fact that judges can still contract marriage sometimes for girls as young as 14, is still practiced today. The loophole in this would be that the marriages are done with “the child’s consent,” but can a 14-year-old or in this case a 16-year-old rape victim, make that kind of decision? Hardly.
Fatima also says that Morocco needs to work on guardianship laws. As of today, it’s all in the hands of the men. “I am a professor, but I cannot sign anything related to my child. If I want to move my daughter from school to school, I need my husband’s permission because he is the one who is the guardian of the family,” says Fatima. But this does not take away from what Morocco has done so far, and according to her, “Morocco is still the leader or in a leading position with regard to the reforms made so far. But there are some obstacles. Public opinion, that’s the big problem. Sincerely speaking, the king on many occasions has been more courageous than all those political parties and other decision-makers.”
But it seems there is still a long way to go.