By Stephanie Willman Bordat and Saida Kouzzi
Rabat – Although the Moroccan Government Council approved an initial version of Draft Law 103-13 on violence against women in March 2016, the House of Representatives made some 28 amendments before voting on it that July. This was due in large part to advocacy and lobbying efforts by diverse NGOs across the country.
Amendments made by the House during its review expanded the definition of violence to include all forms of physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence, as well as coercive control, deprivation and intimidation. Reforms also integrated acts intended to, are likely to, or may cause harm or suffering, including threats, and not just those that actually do result in harm or suffering. Other significant changes made by the House enable victims to file a request for a non-contact order, as well as integrate NGOs into local VAW Committees.
Despite these amendments made by the representatives, Draft law 103-13 remains inadequate and insufficient. At this critical step in the process, NGOs must intensify their efforts to prioritize direct and targeted advocacy to the House of Councilors for further, much-needed improvements to the text.
The following list proposes 16 reasons why we need to amend Draft Law 103-13 to enact a truly comprehensive, effective and rights-based law in Morocco, one that integrates prevention, protection, criminalization, and concrete compensation and services for all women victims of violence.
Because of the Current Situation:
- VAW is a widespread problem in Morocco : Over the course of their lifetimes, one in three women in Morocco are victims of physical violence, one in four of sexual violence, and one in two of psychological violence. The majority of violence against women occurs in the context of marital, family or other intimate relationships.
- To better understand and combat VAW: With the exception of a couple of one-off national prevalence studies, there is a poor data environment and lack of statistics on VAW. In the absence of a law that makes such violence visible by creating legal categories of crimes that can be measured, we simply have very little information about the types and extent of violence against women, or the nature and effectiveness of the State response.
- Violence against women results in significant direct and indirect costs, both to individual victims and to the country’s overall economy: The total costs of VAW in Morocco are estimated at nearly 5.8 billion DH per year. Individual women victims of violence spend on average 1875 DH in out of pocket costs on health care related expenses for one incident of violence, and lose 1920 DH in wages annually due to absences from work caused by the violence.
To Respect Legal Commitments:
- To implement Constitutional provisions: Article 22 of the 2011 Constitution clearly establishes women’s right to freedom from violence, providing that, “The physical or moral integrity of anyone may not be infringed, in whatever circumstance that may be, and by any party that may be, public or private. No one may inflict on others, under whatever pretext there may be, cruel, inhuman, [or] degrading treatments or infringements of human dignity.”
- To respect Morocco’s international commitments: Nearly all of the United Nations mechanisms, from the Human Rights Council to the Special Rapporteur on VAW to numerous treaty monitoring Committees, have reminded Morocco of the need for a specific and comprehensive VAW law. Many have also expressed their substantial concerns with the gaps and deficiencies in the current version of Draft Law 103-13, and made concrete recommendations for amendments. Morocco freely entered into its international commitments by ratifying human rights treaties, and must move beyond window-dressing to truly respect them.
- To join the international community on this issue: At least 140 countries around the world have passed specific laws on domestic violence, 144 have laws on sexual harassment, and over 100, including Tunisia, outlaw marital rape.
To Fulfill State Responsibilities:
- To ensure that all women are protected from violence: Current penal laws only cover violence against certain categories of women, such as minor girls, married women, or virgins. Social realities call for a broad law that will explicitly protect all women from violence, including women with disabilities, migrant or undocumented women, single women, and sex workers.
- To adopt a human rights approach: Current laws treat many forms of violence against women, including rape and sexual harassment, as crimes against public morality. As a result, women who are raped frequently will not report it out of fear of being prosecuted for illicit sexual relations. Laws need to focus on protecting victims’ physical integrity and treat such violence as a crime against persons.
- To help reduce corruption in public services: The lack of clear VAW laws and the arbitrary response by public services to victims encourages corruption in sectors already rife with it. According to a 2016 Transparency International report, 4 in 10 Moroccans reported paying a bribe in the health and law enforcement sectors, and 5 in 10 did so within the court system.
- To take a holistic approach to addressing VAW: Violence impacts on a multitude of diverse areas in women’s lives, and hence requires a multisectoral strategy that goes beyond penal code reforms and the law enforcement and justice systems. An effective approach also requires amendments to other laws regulating interventions and services by the health, labor, housing, and education sectors.
- To encourage women to report violence: The vast majority of VAW cases go unreported due to women’s distrust of the justice and law enforcement systems, as well as inadequate public services and procedures Only 3 % of women victims of violence by their husband or other family members, or victims of sexual violence, report it to the authorities.
- To promote a culture of No Tolerance for VAW (1): A specific law would promote citizen responsibility for eliminating violence against women, including within the framework of current legal provisions sanctioning “failure to assist a person in danger.”
- To promote a culture of No Tolerance for VAW (2): We frequently hear the well-worn refrain about how “the problem is not the laws, it’s the mentalities,” and that what is needed is not legislative reform but “public education and awareness-raising.” Human behavior does not evolve from good will alone. Laws serve an educational function, and send messages to the public about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.
- To provide a clear framework for public actors: A VAW law is needed in order to establish clear and specific powers, duties, obligations, procedures, resources and tools for public actors in the law enforcement, justice system and health services sectors to do their job correctly.
- To harmonize public services across the country: Standardized regulations, guidelines, instructions, directives, and administrative forms for all relevant sectors, such as law enforcement, justice and health, are required in order to guarantee equal access to justice and a unified, high level of services across the country.
- And finally, just because enough is enough. « I was a victim of violence and rape daily by my now deceased husband, I felt like a cow, my husband beat me and prevented me from going out, insulted me all of the time, I never dared to talk about it because it is taboo in our region, I never dared to make a complaint out of fear of being badly viewed by society or judged by the community.” (A woman).
This is the last in a series of four opinion pieces on “The ‘Sixteens’ of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based violence in Morocco.” In the previous installment, we looked at 16 necessary amendments to Draft Law 103-13 on violence against women, currently under review before the House of Councilors.
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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