In Morocco, the three rapists of an 11-year-old girl received sentences not exceeding two years in prison. Their appeal trial begins, but the NGOs fear too lenient sentences.
"Such a heinous crime should not leave room for judges to lighten the sentence to such an extent." Questioned by RFI, Khaoula Assebab, president of Jossour forum of Moroccan women, is annoyed. And for good reason: in Morocco, three men convicted of raping an 11-year-old girl were sentenced to light sentences. While they risked up to 30 years in prison, as proposed by the Moroccan Penal Code, they received sentences of up to two years in prison only.
The case of this 11-year-old girl is not isolated. We remember, last September, the debate provoked by the death of a 15-year-old Moroccan girl, who died while trying to have an abortion after being raped. The question of the impunity of the rapists then arose.
In theory, rape is taken into account by the parliamentary authorities who, in 2021, had adopted a law criminalizing violence against women, in general. The Ministry of the Family then referred to certain acts as “forms of harassment, assault, sexual exploitation or ill-treatment” and promised to toughen the penalties.
But the light convictions of the three rapists show that we are far from all that. In 2021, the Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties (MALI) had already warned that the law "does not criminalize marital rape and does not protect women in any way". However, according to a study by the Ministry of the Family, one out of two Moroccan women claims to have been the victim of violence. And in 30% of cases, we are talking about rape.
A message of impunity
The rapes committed against the 11-year-old girl angered protesters, who took to the streets to denounce the laxity of justice. “We gathered today to ask how justice could make this decision when the law says that the rape of a minor is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison. We ask not only that the judgment be reviewed, but also that the penal code be modified”, summarizes Khadija Zeriri, one of the organizers of the protest march.
“The problem is not only in the texts, summarizes a lawyer on condition of anonymity, but the fact that the judges have too much leeway”. However, there is nothing abnormal in the fact that each case is studied in such a way as not to make any mistakes. But how could the judges have been so lenient with the rapists of a little girl?
“It sends a message of impunity to child rapists,” summarizes a protester. The Ministry of Justice was also surprised by the sentence pronounced against the culprits. And the prosecution appealed the decision. This Thursday, a new trial begins, this time at the Rabat Court of Appeal. And everyone hopes that the penalties will be increased.
For NGOs and civil society, this appeal trial is only a drop in an ocean of injustices linked to rape cases. All call for a toughening of the Penal Code and, in particular, concerning the rape of minors.