By Youssef El Kaidi
By Youssef El Kaidi
Morocco World News
Fez, March 3, 2013
Morocco has been under the scrutiny of Amnesty International over the last decade. The non-governmental human rights organization released a number of reports and issued a number of statements criticizing human rights abuses in the country and calling on the authorities for fundamental reforms that align with the universal values of human rights.
An article published on Amnesty’s website Friday, March 1st, accuses the Moroccan Penal Code of bias against women and girls. Many articles in the Moroccan Penal Code are said to be pro-men and against women. The article 475 for example is said to be allowing rapists to escape prosecution if they marry ‘the victim’. Hence, Amnesty International calls on the Moroccan authorities to modifiy such articles to protect women from violence and discrimination.
Among the articles that Amnesty International finds inappropriate and biased are articles 486 and 488 under the section dealing with decency offences. These two articles define rape and set its punishment according to the way it is perpetrated and according to the age of the victim, whether she is married or single, whether she lost virginity or not etc. Amnesty activists see that these articles should be changed and rape redefined to be gender-neutral. Also, they stress that other cases which do not necessarily include physical violence should be taken into account.
Hassiba Haj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International, comments on the issue of rape in the Moroccan Penal Code saying: “the fact that rape is dealt with under the ‘decency’ offences section places the emphasis on morality and marital status rather than on the attack against the victim’s integrity.”
“We are worried that the proposed amendment to Article 475 still maintains the distinction between women who are virgins and women who are not, which is discriminatory and degrading,” she added.
Hassiba Haj Sahraoui directs harsh criticism on a number of other articles in the Moroccan Penal Code such as article 496 which, according to her, criminalizes and subjects women victims of domestic violence to punishment if they escape their marital homes. Article 490 which criminalizes consensual sex between unmarried adults is also criticized on the grounds that it “violates the right to privacy and to free expression.”
Amnesty International activists believe that despite the legal provisions accompanying Morocco’s 2011 constitution, other legislative reforms are needed to “bring Moroccan law in line with international human rights standards,” the fact which many commentators find threatening to Morocco’s cultural and religious specifities.