Despite concerning figures, the grim reality of sexual assault is especially worrying—and difficult to tackle—because the majority of women prefer not to report it.
Rabat – While domestic violence remains one of the most serious concerns in Moroccan homes, the crushing majority of victims do not report it, a government-sponsored survey has found.
Speaking in Rabat on Tuesday, July 9, at a forum on women’s rights in Morocco, Bassima Hakkaoui, the Moroccan Minister for Family, Solidarity, Equality, and Social Development, talked at length about the root causes of domestic violence in Morocco.
Hakkaoui highlighted the country’s deep-seated patriarchy, arguing that societal constraints are keeping most victims of gender-based violence from speaking about their sometimes immensely traumatizing experiences.
In practical terms, a whopping 93.4% of sexual violence victims have not reported their plight to authorities, according to the study.
The study, which was sponsored by the government and conducted between January and March of this year, found that domestic violence and gender-based assaults are still alive and well in Morocco’s social fabric. The minister called gender-based violence a “prevailing reality” in Morocco, indicating that the national average for gendered violence stood at 54.4% at the time of the survey.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the survey’s findings established that domestic violence is more pervasive in urban settings, with 55.8% women reported to have experienced it in some form—pointed or more subtle— between January and March. The figure stood at the slightly lower 51.6% for women in rural, remote zones.
The survey predictably found that women aged 25-29 are the biggest victims of the bleak practice. 59.8% of women in that age category are said to have encountered gender-based violence in the past twelve months.
But despite such concerning figures, the grim reality of domestic violence is especially worrying—and difficult to tackle—because the majority of women do not report it.
Resigned to the patriarchal stereotypes of “brave women” whose courage fundamentally resides in “supporting the consequences,” however horrifying, of marriage or motherhood, only 6% of victims reported their situation to authorities.
The contrast between the staggeringly high number of existing cases and the insignificant number of reported incidents may also have to do with the prevailing societal belief that families’ dirty laundries are not to be exposed in public.
Hakkaoui regretted that so few women would approach authorities to denounce the plight that heir partners put them through in their households. She pointed out that existing legal frameworks to protect women will be of little use if women do not take it upon themselves to report their experiences.
Female empowerment through awareness raising campaigns
But the minister also suggested that authorities may bear part of the responsibility for the marginal number of reports.
For women to file complaints against their partners, male relatives, or bosses, they first ought to know about the existence of the legal frameworks in their favor, as well as the administrative process needed to make use of those legal instruments.
She said in this regard that the government and regional authorities must put more efforts in awareness raising campaigns to “inform and educate” women about their rights. Hakkaoui emphasized that women particularly need to be empowered and taught about human rights to embolden them to file complaints against their abusers.
Other forms of violence highlighted in the study entailed psychological violence, digital or internet-based violence, as well as sexual assaults in public spaces or in work settings.
12.4% of Moroccan women faced sexual assaults in public spaces in the past twelve months, according to the survey, with the break down in terms of categories being: 66.5% of sexual nature, 49.1% of psychological nature, and 33.2% were physical assaults.
24.3% of female employees reported having been sexually assaulted, while 13.4% said they were victims of digital gendered violence.
The two categories had a point in common: most of the women concerned are more often than not “educated” and “well-accomplished.” The statistics suggest that the more a woman is seen as “educated” and “emancipated,” the greater the likelihood of her facing gendered violence online or in “professional” settings.
Minister Hakkaoui concluded by saying that Moroccan women are emerging as “invaluable agents” of the country’s socio economic developments in various walks of life. An interesting finding was that marriage is only one of the many contributing factors in the pervasiveness of domestic or gendered violence in general in Moroccan society.
While the percentage of sexually assaulted married women remains high at 52.2%, it was even higher and more concerning among not-yet-married couples. 54.4% of women identified as “fiancées” were sexually assaulted by their partners in the past year. For divorced and widowed spouses, the percentage of sex-based violence stood at 30.9%.
As women’s roles in and importance for public life grow, she stressed, the government and regional authorities should devise joint platforms to ensure that they be “economically empowered” and their rights as individuals also be protected.