By Stephanie Willman Bordat and Saida Kouzzi
Rabat – This is the third in a series of four opinion pieces on “The ‘Sixteens’ of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based violence in Morocco.” In the first two installments, we looked at actions that will (or won’t) help amend Morocco’s Draft Law 103-13 on violence against women, currently under review before the House of Councilors.
Existing laws in Morocco are outdated and not responsive to current realities, and Draft Law 103-13 has numerous gaps that need to be remedied through further amendments. Limited to a few minor reforms to the Penal and Penal Procedure Codes, the Draft Law does not cover the reporting, investigation and prosecution phases of violence against women cases, address current deficiencies in sexual violence laws, guarantee adequate protection for victims, or provide women with concrete or specific services.
The following list proposes 16 specific modifications that should be made to Draft Law 103-13 to address these weaknesses and ensure a comprehensive law that will protect women, punish violent offenders, and establish State responsibilities. At this point in time, it is essential that civil society prioritize advocacy with clear, concrete and targeted proposals for amendments.
Protecting women victims of violence:
- Civil protection orders should be issued by the Family judge: Quite frequently, women victims of violence just want the violence to stop, without having to involve the police. Only 3% of Moroccan women who are victims of conjugal violence report it to the authorities. However, the current Draft Law only provides protection for women once they have filed a criminal complaint. A much better solution is to give the Family judge the power to issue civil protection orders tailored to each case in order to guarantee real protection for women.
- Protection orders should be issued without needing to file a criminal complaint: The current Draft Law provides for protection orders only once a criminal prosecution has been initiated, something that happens very rarely in reality. This gap places women at risk of continued violence. Women should be able to obtain a civil protection order quickly and as soon as it is requested.
- Remove the violent offender from the family home: Access to safe and stable housing is a serious problem for abused women and their children, who are often forced to flee their work and school, become homeless, or return to a violent situation. The current Draft Law does not offer any proposals to address this. In a human rights approach, Protection Orders contain provisions guaranteeing the right of the victim and their children to remain in the family home, while removing the violent offender.
- Provide financial support for women and children: Protection Orders should contain provisions guaranteeing financial support for the victim and her children so that the husband cannot take advantage of her economic vulnerability to pressure her to drop the case.
- Specific Provisions to Protect Women with Disabilities: Although 6 out of 10 women have experienced violence related to their disability, the current Draft Law 103-13 makes no reference to women with disabilities. Specific provisions should include the particular forms of violence committed against women with disabilities, and ensure access to specialized procedures and services.
Establishing State Responsibility for investigating and prosecuting violence against women;
- Criminalize rape regardless of the perpetrator’s relationship with the victim: “There is a huge problem of brides being raped on their wedding night, and it’s hard to protest because people will accuse the woman of not being a virgin in order to justify this violence. Women are silent, and as a result, rape by their husbands becomes a regular practice that women suffer from. “(A group of women)
- Replace the medical certificate with a medical report: Under the current Penal Code, women victims of violence must bring a certificate of more than 20 days incapacity in order to file a criminal assault and battery charge. The Draft Law should replace the certificate with a detailed and comprehensive medical report on the victim’s physical and psychological condition to serve as evidence for the prosecution.
- Police should go immediately to the scene of violence: Under current laws, the police cannot go to the scene of a domestic dispute without the authorization of the Prosecutor, except in case of imminent danger of death. However, 55% of violence against women in Morocco occurs in the conjugal context, and therefore requires immediate intervention to stop the violence. Draft Law 103-13 should give police the authority – and the obligation – to intervene in all cases of domestic violence, even if at a private home.
- Services provided by trained and specialized personnel, in private spaces: “I had a miscarriage because of my husband’s violence. When I was pregnant a second time and my husband beat me, I went to the police to file a complaint. My husband came to the station and threatened to kill me – in front of the police, who did not intervene or arrest him. They just asked us to leave the station, with no concern for what would happen to me. ” (A woman)
- Prosecute the offender even if the victim retracts her testimony: The current Draft Law provides for the cancellation of the prosecution or trial, or the execution of the sentence, if the victim “waives these rights.” This exposes victims to threats, pressure, and intimidation to abandon the case. It is the duty of the prosecutor to prosecute crimes on the basis of evidence, regardless of the presence of the victim. (Murder victims can’t testify and this doesn’t pose any problems to prosecuting the offender).
- Compel the police to conduct a thorough investigation: Currently, it is rare for violence against women cases reported to the authorities to result in a written report (25%), or arrest (1.3%) or indictment (1.8%) of the perpetrator. The Draft Law should establish obligations and guidelines for the police to take reports, investigate complaints rigorously, and collect evidence. This will ensure that police take domestic violence incidents seriously and provide the prosecutor with grounds necessary for prosecution.
- Require public actors to inform women victims of violence of their rights: Because “The right to know is the right to live.” (Aruna Roy, Indian social activist).
- Sanction public actors who do not fulfill their obligations: “There is nothing that can be done for you, go home.” “Be patient for your children.” “Go home, you should be ashamed of yourself.” The Draft Law should hold accountable public actors who fail in their duties with such remarks.
Providing concrete services for women victims of violence:
- Guarantee safe and immediate shelter for women victims of violence in emergencies: “Once we had to shelter a woman victim of violence in a psychiatric center because there was no place else for her to go, and this woman was at risk of being killed by her husband. We were only able to allow her to stay for 3 days in the center, and don’t know what happened to her once she left. » (A social worker)
- Guarantee free medical services for women victims of violence: The lack of free and accessible health services for women victims of violence is an obstacle to obtaining the care and treatment they need, as well as the documentation necessary to file a case.
- Provide free legal assistance automatically for women victims of violence so that protection and justice are not only available to those with the means to pay for them.
To be continued: The next and last part of this series will detail 16 reasons why we need a comprehensive Violence against Women Law in Morocco. Stay tuned!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity.
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