Casablanca- Morocco is increasingly becoming the ideal refuge for rapists. Stories on rape and sexual harassment have become so customary in our press that we don’t read them with perhaps the same degree of concern as we used to when the figures on this phenomenon were still far from stirring panic in the Moroccan society.
Today, rape in Morocco is no longer that farfetched phenomenon that we seldom hear of or even dare pronounce. Rape has now reached its most dreadful manifestations in the kingdom. Today we can even hear of cases of rape that end with murder, and of very young children, see even babies, victimized by callous rapists.
Rape is now a crime that is taking over the other reprehensible acts existent in the Moroccan society. But what adds insult to injury is that the acute conservatism that still plagues Moroccan society pushes many to stigmatize and punish victims instead of their rapists. A conservative Moroccan family would rather rebuke the victim—mostly a female—for having tarnished the family’s “social image,” rather than sue the perpetrator and claim the rights of the victim.
Rape is still a taboo in Morocco. It does not receive as much light as it is the case in Western countries. This is also due to the radical social conservatism that some Moroccans still cling to. We now hear of Moroccan families “selling” their own girls who were victims of rape to their own rapists, all to avoid being chewed out by the “gaze” of society. As shocking as it might sound, you can still see Moroccan parents beating up their daughters for having been the victims of rape, just because this would have fingers pointed at the family.
Obviously, rapists in Morocco see this as a green light, prompting them to go farther in their criminal behavior. Even the judicial system seems to clap hands for them. A case in point is Rabii Tazi et Khalil Bendriss, two Moroccan rapists who were found guilty of sexually abusing two young girls, Hiba and Jihane, were sentenced to only 4 years in prison, a verdict that begs the question ‘is rape really taken seriously in Morocco?’
According to the latest statistics made available in 2011 by the High Commission for Planning, 26,000 children are subjected to rape per year, which represents an alarming ratio of 71 cases of rape per day.
It is almost a formula now: regardless of how hideous a rape case in Morocco is, and regardless of how serious its impact is on the victims, the judicial system will take it easy on the perpetrators. Could this get any more irrational? The rapist of 8-year-old Hiba from Kenitra, whose story mobilized many Moroccans and NGOs in solidarity with her, was recently sentenced to only 4 years in jail. And guess what: his lawyer intends to attenuate calls for the attenuation of his client’s sentence.
The sentences the above-mentioned perpetrators received seem only to make sense for the Moroccan judicial system. The Moroccan penal code states that only in the case of defloration does rape takes place; otherwise, it is considered only a case of molestation. It is specifically such unsound reasoning that mobilized Moroccan civil society, led by the National Committee for the Support of Victims of Rape, calling on the government to harden the penal code against any sort of sexual abuse regardless of its degree.
Only a real crackdown on perpetrators and a harsh enforcement of the law will put Morocco on the right track towards effectively tackling this plague that is affecting a great number of families in the country and traumatizing the victims of these heinous acts. If Morocco were to show its seriousness in honoring its international commitments in terms of the protection of women and their empowerment, as well the protection of the rights of the child, the first step that must take is to revise its penal code in a way that would push any rapist to think twice before committing his crime.
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