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Equality Now has just issued an Update to Women’s Action 41.1 Morocco: End the legal exemption for rapists who marry their victims. 15-year-old Safae from Tangiers was raped and impregnated in January 2011 when she was 14. Though she and her mother filed a complaint, according to recent reports they were pressured to drop the charges by the prosecutor and the judge. Instead, without her parents being present, the judge allegedly made Safae marry her rapist in order to save her “honor.” By doing so, the law also removed the threat of criminal penalty on Safae’s rapist. Safae gave birth to a girl in September 2011, but her rapist has disappeared and she and her daughter are not supported by him. Additionally, since the "father" is not named on the birth certificate, Safae’s rapist remains anonymous with his “honor” intact, while Safae is reported to be in a state of extreme depression, having twice attempted suicide.
As with the previous case of 16 year-old Amina Filali, who committed suicide after being forced to marry her rapist, this highlights the difficulties faced by Moroccan girls in achieving justice in sexual violence cases. Union de L'Action Feminine, a Moroccan women’s rights group, and other civil society organizations continue to call for the repeal of Article 475, as well as for the repeal of laws permitting judges at their discretion to authorize marriage of minors who are younger than the minimum age of marriage of 18, including in cases of sexual violence. La Marche Des Femmes Libres is organizing demonstrations throughout the country to ensure that rapists are not absolved of their crimes. Action is urgently needed to develop child protection mechanisms, including judicial training, so that judges cannot and do not push girls into marrying their rapists.
Equality Now calls on the Government of Morocco to repeal Article 475 of the Moroccan Penal Code, to ensure that the prohibition on child marriage is enforced, to take measures to stop judges from coercing girls into marriage in cases such as this and to institute child protection measures and judicial training matters of urgency. To prevent other deaths and violations of girls’ and women’s rights, Equality Now also encourages the government to do everything it can to ensure that girls and women are protected from violence and discrimination and have access to justice when they face abuse in compliance with its international legal obligations and its own Constitution.