By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Casablanca – Sexual harassment towards women in Morocco, especially in public places, has become a tacit practice rarely denounced. It takes several forms, ranging from inappropriate comments and offensive remarks to actual physical assault.
Women can also face sexual blackmail at their workplace. They are often exposed to unwelcome sexual advances or inappropriate promises of reward in exchange of sexual favors. Sexual harassment is usually perpetrated by a man holding a powerful position.
Proving the occurrence of impertinent sexual advances is an intricate task. Victims of sexual harassment find it often difficult to give tangible evidence of bullying.
Nevertheless, the repercussions of this kind of abuse remain an impediment towards a full emancipation of women in society.
Offensive teasing and indecent overtones denoted by physical gestures have become so commonplace in public places that almost nobody puts them under scrutiny. Instead, women are often blamed for their own turmoil.
Many ascribe the prevalence of sexual harassment against women to their body-revealing clothing. In traditional societies like Morocco women are bound by religion and traditional social values to embrace modesty in their dress. Therefore, when sexual harassment occurs, women are the first to be held accountable.
On the other hand, men are not reprimanded neither by the family nor by the media for indecent behavior. In typical patriarchal societies, social norms are often defined from the vantage point of men. Throughout history, men, who have had unimpeded access to the public realm, have been laying the foundations of a social system that serves best their own interests.
Any measure that would undermine chauvinistic authority over society, either under the banner of modernity or equality, is likely to be ignored or to be faced with a fierce opposition.
Sexual Harassment and the Moroccan Law
Though Moroccan law does not prohibit isolated comments and offensive teasing that are not very serious, it considers physical sexual harassment, especially in work places as a serious crime. The litigant, be it a man or a woman can file a complaint that is submitted to the civil court.
Indeed, Article 503 of the Moroccan penal code states, “guilty of sexual harassment and liable to one to two years of imprisonment and a fine amounting to MAD 5000 whoever harasses another person by the virtue of their authority by issuing orders, threats, constraints or any other mean in exchange of sexual favors”.
Article 40 also gives harassed employees the right to leave their position and claim legitimate compensation.
Redouan Garfaoui, an expert in social law, explains in his article in the Moroccan daily Le Soir that the plaintiff needs to prove that the person who committed sexual harassment has used their power to ask for sexual favors.
The plaintiff needs to demonstrate that the person accused is aware of their actions and that there is actual evidence of harassment in recruiting or giving a raise with vindictive intentions if the plaintiff refuses.
Garfaoui notes that employers can play a pivotal role in protecting their staff against sexual harassment by investigating accusations and complaints with integrity and impartiality.
This said the likelihood of being harassed in the streets for women in particular remains very high since no concrete measures have been taken either through media campaigns or at schools in order to dissuade young generations from engaging in this indecent behavior.
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