A 15-year-old Moroccan girl died while trying to have an abortion after being raped. Enough to relaunch the debate on rape in a kingdom where impunity too often reigns.
Meriem was 15 years old. The teenager, who lived near Midelt. in central Morocco, was raped by a 25-year-old man. Fallen pregnant, the young woman died on September 6, while she was trying to have an abortion clandestinely.
On the initiative of the Movement of the Manifesto of Outlaws, initiated by the Collective 490, the messages towards the authorities of the kingdom are multiplying, since September 6, on social networks. The collective was launched in 2019, after a journalist, Hajar Raissouni, was arrested, accused of "illegal abortion" and "sex outside marriage". He now wishes to denounce the impunity of rapists, judging that Moroccan laws are too lax on this subject.
An overly lax Personal Status Code?
In 2021, the Moroccan parliament had adopted a law criminalizing violence against women. It was then a question, according to the Ministry of the Family, of considering certain acts as “forms of harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill-treatment” and of toughening the penalties. The Moudawana, the Personal Status Code which governs family law, was until then unsuitable, according to civil society, despite its revision in 2004 by King Mohammed VI.
But the parliamentary text had not been deemed sufficient by the various NGOs. The Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties (MALI) had claimed that the law "does not criminalize marital rape and does not protect women in any way".
Rape is a real scourge in Morocco. A study by the Ministry of the Family affirms that one out of two Moroccan women claims to have been the victim of violence, and that in 30% of cases, it is rape. An impressive figure which shows that rape is a reality, omnipresent in Moroccan society.
Several organizations have decided to fight rape and to denounce the legal shortcomings on this subject. Like the creative studio Jawjab, which launched a web series called “Marokkiat” in 2018, which denounces sexual violence, street harassment and underage marriages.
A “national mourning online” for Meriem
In 2021, activist Nouzha Skalli deplored the parliamentary amendment of the law, indicating that it "modifies only a few articles of the Criminal Code, while the latter remains fundamentally based on obsolete concepts, such as indecent assault public or the criminalization of sexual relations outside marriage”.
The case of Meriem, far from being isolated, now serves as an example for women who fight for better consideration for victims. Director Sonia Terrab believes it takes popular pressure to push for changes to the law. “As long as there is no social pressure, as long as there is no pressure from public opinion and civil society, I have little hope that things will change. The pressure must also come from the people, because otherwise they will remain paralyzed”. After having organized a “national mourning online”, the Collectif 490 now hopes that things will change.