Apr 2, 2012
On March 10, a 16-year-old girl died in Larache, in Morocco. Amina al Filali committed suicide, swallowing poison, because she was forced to marry the man who raped her.
The horror of young Amina’s situation stands out because she killed herself. But how many other Moroccan women and girls suffer this same horror? There certainly are no statistics to say. The law allowed Amina’s rapist to escape years in prison for what was called the “offense” of rape of a minor simply by marrying his victim.
The part of Moroccan society still stuck in the Middle Ages condemned the young woman, forcing her into a second and tragic attack. She had no choice but to marry her rapist. Her own family withdrew its complaint against the rapist, preferring this forced marriage to the dishonor that Amina’s lost virginity and her ruined reputation would have represented in their eyes and among those around them. So the Larache family announced the marriage, and then arranged a reconciliation between the two families.
The Moroccan law, reformed in 2004, made a few advances in the status of women. Before that date women were totally treated as minors who passed from the father’s authority to the husband’s. But polygamy was not totally abolished in Morocco. And there are numerous exceptions to the law, so that as soon as the reform passed, there was an increase of 50% in the marriage of minors in rural areas in one year. That’s exactly how families got around the law.
The “double rape” of Amina, followed by her suicide, provoked indignant rallies, including 300 people in front of the courthouse in Larache. Then feminists organized a sit-in in front of the Moroccan Parliament in Rabat, demanding the abolition of the law allowing rapists to escape court by marrying their victims.
Moroccan law helps to perpetuate the social and religious ideas that treat women like merchandise, to be sold at a lower price if they lose their hymen.
Furthermore, poverty in the poorest parts of the country, where there is no work, pushes the social custom that marries off girls at an age when they should be going to school.