Rabat – September 12, 2018, is a date to remember as Moroccan courts will officially implement Law 103-13 on gender-based discrimination.
Six months after its publication in the official gazette in February, the law on the elimination of violence against women will go into effect, providing women the ability to file complaints of sexual harassment and giving severe punishment to harassers.
The law will give prison sentences ranging from one to six months for people who sexually harass in public spaces, by use of words, acts or signals of a sexual nature for sexual purposes.
The harassers will also be fined from MAD 2,000 to 10,000.
Perpetrators of cybercrime, including broadcasting or disseminating a combination of false allegations, will face one to three years in prison and a fine ranging from MAD 1,000 to 20,000 if found guilty.
The law will also include the establishment of a regional committee for female victims of violence at the level of the judicial district of each court of appeal.
Moroccan women have expressed positive feelings about the law, which defines any act of violence and harassment as a crime.
The Association Tahadi for Equality and Citizenship (ATEC) told Morocco World News it was satisfied and positive over the decision to implement the law.
“12 September 2018 is a historic day by all standards for Moroccan women,” the statement said.
While many see the decision to implement the law is a big step for women, some believe more work should be done yet.
Bouchra Abdou, an activist, feminist, and president of ATEC told Morocco World News that women’ associations will ask for more explanations and details of the law.
For the activist, the implications of the law are still vague; while the law was announced in the official gazette, it’s full text has not been published yet. Abdou noted that women do not know exactly what they should do if they are harassed.
Minister of Solidarity, Women, and Family Bassima Hakkaoui said that it took the government six years of consultation and public debate to implement the law.
According to the official, the law is based on four aspects of justice, according to international standards: preventive, protective, restorative, and solidarity.
Void for vagueness?
“Do we need witnesses for the law to be implemented against a harasser? We still don’t have a complete idea about how this law is going to work,” Abdou said.
For Stephanie Willman Bordat, international human rights lawyer, the struggle does not end here. Asked if she is positive about the law, the human rights activist said that “the law is not made to be implemented,” but to amend the current law.
Bordat told Morocco World News today how the law has criminalized public harassment.
“What the law basically did is create a couple of new crimes or it increased the prison time for the crimes that already existed. The problem is that for those to be implemented, the law has to include items related to the reporting and investigation and prosecution. In other words, to be implemented, the law has to put into place the implementing mechanisms.”
According to the activist, the law should also facilitate the reporting procedure for women wishing to file complaints of gender-based discrimination.
“It has to put systems and procedures for police to investigate, and it has to put in place procedures for prosecution to prosecute. And the law does not do anything like that. It says sexual harassment is a crime, but if you go to the police to say that ‘this guy was harassing me,’ there is no clarity in the law about what the police officer is supposed to do and about how they do the interview and investigation.”
She added that law enforcement does not have the power to do their job “if they don’t have the obligation that they have to do that job.”
‘The law is so bad’
Commenting on the provisions against domestic violence, the activist said that the issue “was a crime before; that is nothing new. Rape and sexual assault were also crimes before.”
The activist also pinpointed the fact women do not file complaints against violence. Bordat said that only 3 percent of women who suffer it report rape.
“The law does not change anything regarding rape crimes.” She also emphasized that a “response from law enforcement is necessary: otherwise, why would women go and report against those crimes?”
The lawyer also criticized the lack of intervention of law enforcement in certain cases, like domestic violence. Bordat said that for police to intervene, there must be imminent threat of death.
“For police to go to a private home to investigate a domestic dispute, it has to be an imminent threat of death; [a] prosecutor can’t arrest abusers unless women bring a medical certificate of 20 days of incapacitation … None of that changed.”
Bordat also addressed a message to women, recognizing that “there is still a long road ahead of us…. It is going to require ongoing advocacy. The law is so bad.”
She added that concerned parties should monitor the law and how it is going to be implemented.
ATEC will launch a campaign to raise awareness on the danger of harassment.
“The campaign includes direct sensitization meetings with citizens,” ATEC’s statement added.
The campaign aims also to explain the law and its provisions in simple language for citizens.
The center will also provide citizens with brochures “carefully prepared to be accessible to all women, and posters designed for the same purpose will be featured in the city of Casablanca.”
Tahadi plans to launch an online campaign, sending audio messages from Moroccan activists, authors, and citizens to raise awareness against harassment and to call on women to take the initiative to “quickly submit complaints against harassers.”
In the audio clips Morocco World News obtained of human rights activists, feminists, and public figures, the primary message was to ask women to take a firm position against harassment and to break their silence to fight it.
The continuation of a long struggle
One woman already started to say no to violence. On September 6, a Moroccan woman in Casablanca filed complaints against three men for sexual harassment.
The law on violence against women was originally set to take effect in August, but was delayed until today for unknown reasons.
The law comes after widely-publicized cases of rape, harassment, and violence caused outrage among Moroccan citizens.
The latest case to receive wide attention was Khadija’s.
The 17-year-old said she was kidnapped and raped by more than 12 men for two months. Her alleged rapists also tattooed her body against her will, she said, writing their names on her skin.
A similar case caused outrage in Casablanca last year when a group of teanagers physically harassed a young woman on a moving bus while other passengers did nothing.