Morocco to Change Law that Forces Rape Victims to Marry Rapists

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Morocco has finally announced plans to change a penal code to outlaw the traditional practice of forcing rape victims to marry their alleged rapist. 

The change comes nearly a year after a 16-year-old girl was forced to marry her rapist and poisoned herself to death to get out of it. 

While women's rights activists are happy about Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid's announcement, they said it is only one small step in the reformation of a penal code that does not stop violence against women in the country. 

In Article 475 of the code, a paragraph explains that those convicted of corruption or kidnapping of a minor could go free if they married their victim. Judges encouraged the marriage so families of the victims would be "spared shame."

In March of 2012, Amina al-Filali, 16, poisoned herself so she could escape her marriage of seven months to a 23 year old who raped her. Her family and a judge urged them to get married in order to protect family honor. 

After al-Filali's suicide, many called for the law to be revised. 

Morocco is not the only country to implement such a law. Many countries across the Middle East have similar laws, as the loss of a woman's virginity out of wedlock creates shame and destroys honor in families. 

The marriage age in Morocco is 18, but judges often approve younger marriages.

President of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights Khadija Ryadi said changing the law is a good thing "but it doesn't meet all of our demands."

"The penal code has to be totally reformed because it contains many provisions that discriminate against women and doesn't protect against violence," she said. 

Parts of the law, for instance, distinguish between "rape resulting in deflowering and just plain rape." 

President of the Democratic League for Women's Rights agreed with Ryadi, saying that the code penalizes violence against women "from a moral standpoint and not because it is just violence."

"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," she added.

When al-Filali was raped, the Justice Ministry argued that she was lying, and that the sexual relations were consensual.