Morocco is not going to allow any longer rapists of underage girls to avoid prosecution by marrying their victims. On Monday, the justice ministry said it backed a proposal to amend Article 475 and would consider tougher sentences.
In conservative rural parts of Morocco, an unmarried girl or woman who has lost her virginity - even through rape - is considered to have dishonored her family and no longer suitable for marriage. Some families believe that marrying the rapist addresses these problems.
The penal code criminalizes rape and sexual acts with a minor "without violence." Article 475 provides for a prison term of one to five years for anyone who "abducts or deceives a minor without violence, threat or fraud, or attempts to do so".
However, the second clause of the article specifies that when the victim marries the perpetrator, "he can no longer be prosecuted except by persons empowered to demand the annulment of the marriage and then only after the annulment has been proclaimed". This effectively prevents prosecutors from independently pursuing rape charges.
The move was welcomed by the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, following the suicide of a 16 year-old after she was forced to marry her rapist.
The organization’s president, Khadija Ryadi, told the Associated Press, "The penal code has to be totally reformed because it contains many provisions that discriminate against women and doesn't protect women against violence."
Ms. Ryadi noted that the new article proposed by the justice ministry distinguished between "rape resulting in 'deflowering' and just plain rape."
Fouzia Assouli, head of the Democratic League for Women's Rights, said: "The law doesn't recognize certain forms of violence against women, such as conjugal rape, while it still penalizes other normal behavior like sex outside of marriage between adults."