x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

End of a flawed law

Morocco is finally ready to dump a bad law that can make the situation evn worse for victims of rape.

On International Women's Day, where do women stand? It is, of course, impossible to give a single answer, but one positive piece of news is coming out of Morocco. Article 475 of the penal code - which permits a rapist to evade prosecution if he marries his victim - will be overturned, even if progress has been painstakingly slow, with the Agence France-Presse reporting yesterday that parliament is "inching closer" to a resolution.

As is so often the case, it took a tragedy to spur action. Almost exactly one year ago, a 16-year-old girl from Larache, Amina Filali, poisoned herself after being forced to marry her rapist. The public outcry overwhelmed the medievalists who supported the law and the governing Justice and Development Party, which is moderately Islamist, announced in January that the article would be amended. Amina's death may change society.

In many countries across the region, rape victims are blamed for their suffering or unfairly stigmatised. Lebanon and Algeria are among the many countries that have had similar laws on the books, in a sense condoning the coerced marriage of rape victims to the men who assaulted them.

Apologists have pointed out that Article 475 is rarely invoked. In Amina's case, of course, once was enough to end her life. But it is not only the direct victims who suffer - all women are affected by a legal code that puts them at the mercy of their attackers and blames them for the crime.