Bassima Hakkaoui, the Moroccan Minister of Family and Solidarity, drafted a law to curb violence against women that has been pending approval from the government since 2013. Years have passed and the statistics on sexual-harrassment and violence against women in Morocco have not shown improvement.
“During the government’s failure in this field, [gender-based] violence has increased to affect 40 percent of women and 50 percent of cases of abuse against women remain untried in court files.” said Khadija Al-Rouissi, a representative from the Authenticity and Modernity Party. A 2009 government survey also found that nearly two-thirds of women had experienced physical, psychological, sexual, and economic violence. Some 55 percent of the two-thirds of women reported “conjugal” violence.
The draft has since been modified to include sexual-violence in the definition of domestic violence and the criminalization of marital rape. It has been further pushed forward by women like Moroccan comedian and feminist activist Mounia Magueri, who created a video performance depicting the complex issue. The video narrates the complex situation of a domestic violence survivor, and the normalization and acceptance of her abuse by her husband, a police officer, and a prosecutor.
This issue has become increasingly important after another video shared by The Moroccan Times went viral of a woman being harassed almost 300 times as she walks a full 10 hours through the streets of Casablanca. Don’t ask what this women was wearing because that is of inconsequence.
The law will come into affect this month and now calls for the punishment of the sexual harasser with up to six months in prison, and a fine of 2,000 to 10,000 Moroccan dirhams.
This penalty is doubled for any individual involved in maintaining order and security, as well as if the victim is a women or a minor. Furthermore if the perpetrator harasses a minor, comes from the victim’s family, or has power over the victim’s assets, the punishment will consist of jail time ranging from three months to five years with a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 Moroccan dirhams. The issue of sexual-violence against women is multi-faceted and although harassment is something that can be witnessed by outsiders, domestic violence is much more deeply-rooted in the culture of Morocco.
The drafted criminal law defines a sexual harasser as “anyone physically or verbally assaulting another in a sexual way, including by sending messages, recordings or pictures of a sexual nature.” Sexual harassment includes unsolicited acts, statements, or signals of a sexual nature, which are delivered in person, online, or via telephone, the bill says.
The law has been put into place for both men and women, but the latter is way more common. This has been a long time coming for Morocco, but it is indeed a great step forward and an example to other nations to pick up the slack. Although we cannot help but be saddened that we have to go such lengths for women to be treated like humans, it’s a method that will at least help some feel safe and comfortable in their own bodies and as they walk down the streets of their own communities.
A man will think twice before spewing a sexual slur at a woman, maybe not because he respects her, but at least because he will have to pay a fine and suffer jail time. Hopefully we can curb the violence all the while trying to educate younger boys on how they should treat the woman around them. With the shame that comes as a result of charging an individual of this crime, we hope that the violence happens less frequently. It is certainly not a long-term solution, but it is a solution nonetheless. One that is making headway to solving this pressing issue.
In the words of Magueri,
“Violence against women is a crime. Criminals need to be punished. Victims need a law that protects them.”