Rabat – Public spaces are still unsafe for Moroccan women, with four out of every 10 women reported to have been sexually assaulted in urban areas, according to a study carried out by the High Commission of Planning (HCP) in 2009, republished recently.
The sexual assault on a mentally challenged girl in a bus in Casablanca has put the spotlight on violence against women in public spaces. The HCP’s study, entitled the ‘National Survey on the Prevalence of Violence Against Women’ (ENPVEF), confirmed that women in general are not safe when outside, especially in cities, and do not enjoy the same freedom and rights as men in public due to various kinds of violence perpetrated against them.
According to the survey, in urban areas in Morocco, out of a population of 5.7 million women between the ages of 18 and 64, 2.3 million (40.6 percent) were victims of an act of violence during the 12 months preceding the survey.
The HCP notes that more than one in three women in urban areas suffered psychological violence (32.1 percent), which is defined as “any act of dominating or isolating a woman, humiliating her, or making her feel uncomfortable.”
Meanwhile, 14.2 percent of city-dwelling women were found to have been victims of physical violence.
According to the study, “although the various forms of violence against women are an old reality, the presence of women in public spaces necessarily evokes the question of violence and particularly sexual harassment.”
In this regard, 4.5 percent of urban women were victims of violations of their individual freedoms, while 3.9 percent were sexually assaulted.
“Women who are victims of violence in the public places of our cities belong to all age groups and all social categories. By age, the prevalence rate rises from almost 25 percent among urban dwellers aged 50-64 to 58.3 percent among the youngest (women aged 18-24). Young women are the most affected by these forms of violence,” notes the HCP.
Thus, the prevalence rate of violence among young women aged 18-24 years is 51.1 percent for psychological violence, 18.2 percent for physical violence and 8.8 percent for sexual violence, explains the study. For older women (50-64 years), these rates are, respectively, 15.1, 11.8 and 1.9 percent.
Married women relatively spared
The HCP also highlights how being married seems to be a “moderating factor, but it does not preserve women from violence in public spaces.” The prevalence rate reached 33.4 percent among married women, compared with 46.3 percent among divorced women and 66.3 percent among unmarried women.
“Widowed women are affected by violence in urban public spaces to the tune of 27 percent, probably because of their age,” the study adds.
On the other hand, it seems that educated women are the greater targets of violence than others. “Urban women with higher levels of education report more violence than other women. Indeed, the higher the woman’s education level, the higher the prevalence rate. It varies from 29 percent of those with no education, to 40.6 percent of those with primary education, and 57.9 percent of those with a level of education,” points out the study.
According to the survey, unemployed women are most vulnerable to the scourge of violence. This afflicts two out of three unemployed women in urban areas, compared with 54.5 percent of women in the workplace.
Clothes, a key factor
The conclusions of the HCP survey confirm the commonly-held view that women dressed more “conservatively” are less victimized by sexual violence.
For example, “women who often wear short modern outfits often report more violence against them in these areas. The prevalence rate in urban areas stand at 75.5 percent to fall to 61 percent among those who often wear long modern outfits but without a hijab, to nearly 34 percent among those wearing Djellabas or equivalent.”
Vulnerability of women with special needs
The recent case of the violent sexual assault suffered by the young Zineb on a bus in Casablanca illustrates another reality highlighted by the HCP survey: people with disabilities are not spared. “The prevalence rate of violence in urban public places among women with no disability is only 6 percentage points higher than among those with disabilities,” reports the High Commission for Planning.
Persons with disabilities are more exposed to non-physical harassment, with a prevalence rate of 26.7 percent.