By David Hazelwood
Rabat – I remained concerned and, frankly, outraged, by the sexual harassment of women and girls in Morocco. This is not something I only read and/or hear about, this is something I witness personally on a daily basis.
Respecting girls’ and women’s rights changes the world unmistakably for the better. Morocco must push further in its struggle to ensure the safety and security for all girls. Investing in girls’ is not only right, it is smart. Benefits include greater social stability and economic growth.
We will never achieve this unless we tackle the roots of imbalance in social barriers and entrenched social norms. Unless Morocco begins to understand equality as a much broader concept, girls and young women will never be able to achieve the security that is of fulfillment to their human rights.
In March of this year, Bassima Hakkaoui, Moroccan Minister of Solidarity Women, Family, and Social Development, announced a new second draft for an anti-sexual harassment law.
The new bill legally redefines the spaces in which women can claim they have been sexually harassed. Sexual harassment includes unsolicited acts, statements, or signals of a sexual nature, which are delivered in person, online, or via telephone, the bill says.
The draft includes tougher punishments for perpetrators as well. A person convicted of committing sexual assault could face a combination of jail time, ranging anywhere from one month to six months, and fines, between MAD 2,000 and MAD 10,000.
This will be a consequential policy choice; one that will positively affect Moroccans, especially girls and women, for generations to come. It is sad and alarming when fear hinders girls’ and women’s access to basic services outside the home. Harassment on the streets restricts social and economic development. Because of this fact, Morocco should unanimously pass the proposed bill and enforce it. People who harass girls and women in the streets are hindering the growth of the Kingdom of Morocco and its people.
It will be hard to get Moroccan boys to be bold enough to respect girls and stand up for them in front of their friends. However, we must demand that they do so. It is not only sad to see boys harass girls and women, it is also sad to see people who witness this do nothing about it; I am guilty of this too. We need to begin to speak up and stand up for girls when we witness this. We must stand in unity.
Literally millions of girls face harassment on a daily basis. We must task ourselves with doing everything in our power to give Moroccan girls all the freedom and security they deserve. They should feel safe and protected walking down the street, not scared and worried.