By Soukaina Ben Ali
By Soukaina Ben Ali
Morocco World News
Tangier, April 17, 2012
“Heaven lies at the feet of mothers” – Prophet Mohammed (pbuh)
The recent tragedy of Amina Al-Filali and her plea in the fight against a man who raped her has shed light on many intricate deficiencies in modern Morocco. The most important point is that this is one story of many that has surfaced. One reason for this is that the international media has not picked up on the others but more importantly, and hopefully a point this article will highlight, most girls are silenced in these situations; they carry the burden on their shoulders, into their marriages and their new families.
Despite extensive research being conducted that has highlighted the traumatic effect such abuses can have on an individual’s well-being and sanity, the courts of Morocco seem to be oblivious to these discoveries. Although it is natural that we shun the man who raped Amina, I would like to argue that the resolution both the offender and the victim received by the courts is detrimental for both parties and for the community they and we live in.
In a country where victims of rape have no means, socially or politically to voice their pains, to seek refuge, many are left to believe that they are perhaps not worthy of better treatment or that such incidences are commonplace. The offender in most cases will not seek counsel for the issues he is experiencing before executing such crimes. However, it is of optimum importance that such people are treated accurately after committing these acts; for himself but also for society.
That the court orders the offender and the victim to get married is an example of how far we have to go to ensure the betterment of our nation. One must assume that the trigger for this ruling has much to do with safeguarding Amina’s honor, ensuring that she would still only have had sexual intercourse with one partner- the man who raped her. If it is not obvious yet, this is an embarrassing solution that ought to be severely analyzed by the juridical system.
The question of honour and virginity is one that we have, unfortunately, completely misconstrued in my opinion. I would like to remind those in the position to decide the fate of a young girl’s fragile life, of the life of the prophet and the emphasis placed on the role of the mother in Islam. It seems today that young women are viewed as just that, young and frivolous. We must be more astute in our reasoning. Amina and all the other young women who are mistreated and disrespected on a daily basis in Morocco will grow to be women, mothers raising the next generation of Moroccans. To sit in the court of law and agree to this ruling is an abomination and I am sure will be eradicated with relative speed. We should not forget, however, that no matter how much the law changes after this incident, there is a fundamental crisis in Morocco for women to gain respect.
Any amendment to the law will simply seal the issues that this tragedy has so aptly highlighted. What we need to discuss is the element of freedom young women (and men) experience in Morocco. In many Islamic countries, the governments seem to be scared to give their citizens freedom for fear of the choices they will make. If we look to other civilizations where citizens have an arguably higher quality of individualised life, the governmental system follows a synonymous route. I would like to highlight here that the act of making a truly ‘good’ choice is only possible when given a choice and the only way to virtue is through choice. I believe that given the choice, the young women of Morocco would be able to make the right choices and begin to understand themselves and the lives they lead more intricately. I hope within my lifetime the courts of Morocco will give women freedom and allow women to be truly virtuous.
In a recent study entitled ‘Treating the Trauma of Rape: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ‘ Edna B. Foa, Barbar explores the detrimental effect such incidences cause in the victims and highlights the suicidal tendencies in rape victims. Similarly, Groth’s work in ‘Men Who Rape’ emphasizes the same after effect usually occurs with the offenders.
To put two people who are both suffering psychologically from such a traumatic ordeal, is quite simply a catastrophe, yet it is a valid example of how our juridical system is run; the simplest way to get rid of a mess is to put it to sleep with an ‘easy fix.’ I would like to suggest, as we are well into the Twenty First Century, that we begin to look into notions of human existence, appreciate the complexity of our individual citizens and re-evaluate our justice system based on a more humanistic consideration of morality.
Groth argues that without an understanding of the offender, one cannot fully appreciate what the victim is a victim of. Careful clinical study of offenders reveals that rape is in fact serving primarily nonsexual needs. Rapists commit these atrocities as a sexual expression of power and anger.
Forcible sexual assault is, therefore, motivated more by retaliatory and compensatory motives than by sexual ones. This of course also highlights the absurdity and infancy of the court to suggest that Amina marry her offender. To consider rape as an expression of sexual desire is not only an erroneous notion, but also a dangerous supposition, for it results in the shifting of responsibility for the offence from the offender onto the victim. This assumption leads to blaming the victim for deliberately or indirectly stimulating desire in the offender by her actions or her style of dress for example.
What happened a few weeks ago highlights that rape is still viewed in a very immature manner and illustrates the clinical infancy of our country; or rather the failure to intertwine psychological research in the juridical system. In response to this incident government spokesman, Mustafa El-Khalfi stated: “we plan to have harsher sentences against rapists and we will launch a debate about Law 475 to reform it.” Harsher punishment is arguably the most ineffective way of dealing with this issue, after ordering the offender and victim to get married of course.
In the past, there have been many attempts to treat rapists through castration and rehabilitation but neither deals with the real issues the offender struggles with. To sweep these issues under the carpet or into a cell and not treat the offender accurately means that his anger and rage will continue to find other behavioral outlets. Since it is highly unlikely that such offenders will be jailed for life, there inevitably comes a time when the offender will be released to society without any assurance that he is no longer a danger to the community. It is of paramount importance that we understand that Amina did not do anything to deserve what she went through. But it is equally important to view her offender as someone who was psychologically damaged and in need of clinical help. I believe that interviewing the offender and taking steps to understand his problems would be infinitely beneficial to the government and the country.
As has been set up in other parts of the world, notably in many states in America, I would go against El-Khalfi’s notion and suggest that instead of harsher punishment, we need to create an alternative imprisonment for such offenders. By setting up special mental-health facilities where a convicted sex offender may be committed for an indefinite period of time while, in addition to a prison sentence, the issues that led to such crimes can really be dealt with. The offender will not be released to the community while he continues to be a risk to others, offering society an extra degree of protection.
Although it is controversial and perhaps disrespectful to Amina, her family and other victims of such atrocities, I think it is constructive that we call into question why this happened and to appreciate that the only way to answer that question is by understanding the offender’s stance. Taking measures to really understand rape both from the victim and the offender’s stand-point is arguably something that has had deep roots in the re-emergence of the women’s movement in the West, as Groth highlights, and only as a direct result of this has rape gained attention and been able to be treated as a major social problem.
I would like to insist that the key to seeing a beneficial change in society is through women. Once Morocco grants respect and freedom to its women, society will evolve and take a more humanistic and progressive form. Until then I suggest that serious measures be taken to set up clinics where people who have psychological issues can be treated and for establishments where victims of such atrocities can have help in coping with post-traumatic stress disorders.