Rabat – The case of Hajar Raissouni is starting to take larger dimensions. In an unprecedented act in Morocco, Moroccan female writers and activists Leila Slimani and Sonia Terrab published a manifesto today, September 23. The text stands in solidarity with Raissouni, while also criticizing Morocco’s penalizing out of wedlock sexual relations and abortion.
The publication aims not only to defend journalist Hajar Raissouni, arrested for having premarital sexual relations and abortion, but also to defend individual freedoms in Morocco on a larger scale.
The manifesto is directed against Article 490 of the Penal Code. The article stipulates that “… persons from opposite gender who are not legally married and have sexual relations, are punishable by one month to one year in prison.”
At the moment of writing, the manifesto has been signed by 490 Moroccans, mostly public intellectuals and women’s rights advocates, who agreed to publicly declare that they are “outlaws,” and will remain “outlaws, until the law changes.” About three quarters of the signatories are women. The invitation for Moroccans to put their names on the signees list is still open through the email: email@example.com.
“We are violating unfair and obsolete laws. We are having sex out of wedlock. We are suffering, enabling or being complicit of abortion. We learned to deal with it and pretend. But for how long?” reads the starting paragraph of the text.
Statistics are also presented in bold in the manifesto. Last year, 2018, more than 14.500 people were prosecuted under Article 490. More than 3.000 people were imprisoned for adultery. “Every day, between 600 and 800 unsafe abortions are carried out.”
The text concludes with questions aimed at sparking outrage among Moroccans, urging them to fight for individual freedom and bring about a political, social environment that ensures “progress in human development.”
“How can we promote the fulfillment of our youth, how can we illuminate the right involvement of women in our society, how can we truly engage our country towards progress in human development, if our individual freedoms are not respected, if our dignity is knocked down, if we all remain nothing but outlaws?”
Hajar Raissouni, the journalist whose case sparked this unprecedented act of public solidarity, works for Akhbar Al Yaoum, an Arabic news outlet. She was arrested on Saturday, August 31, on her way out of a doctor’s office and she is facing illegal abortion and premarital sex charges.
Police also arrested her fiance, the doctor, and his two aides for illegal abortion. All the defendants remain in custody and are awaiting their trial. The trial is planned for today, September 23, after a previous deferral.