Protesting legalised violence against women in Morocco.
Image from Getty, via www.huffingtonpost.com
Pre-Marital Sex: it’s a loaded topic. Personal belief, familial duty, or religious faith all play a part in our attitudes towards having sex outside of wedlock. Whether it is an expression of love with a long term partner, a casual fling, or for the sheer enjoyment of the physical experience, having sex is our choice. Others may choose to judge us, but in most Western countries this will be confined to silent condemnation or a snide remark. If the disapproval extends to physical or verbal abuse, we have the protection of the law. Sadly, however, this is not the case for all girls in the world.
In Morocco, pre-marital sex is illegal. Those who are caught engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage face more than public condemnation; they can be sent to jail. In this conservative society, the justice minister for the Islamist government has gone on record saying that “legalising sex outside marriage is an initiative to promote debauchery.” There is however, a noticeable shift in attitudes within some sections of the Moroccan community. The legal denunciation of pre-marital sex does not mean that sex doesn’t happen. The younger generation are being influenced by western culture and are looking for ways to explore their sexuality.
The editor of the Al-Ahdath Al-Maghribia daily newspaper, Moktar el-Ghzioui, recently supported a call for repealing article 490, which bans pre-marital sex, during a television debate. He is now in hiding after a cleric released a fatwa for his death. Opposition to the relaxing of these laws is bringing deep seeded violence into the debate. This much darker side of Moroccan sexual restrictions was exposed this year with the tragic case of Amina Filali. This 16 year old girl committed suicide after being forced to marry the man who raped her. Current Moroccan law allows rapists to escape jail by marrying their victims, thus keeping her all important family honour intact. Amina was brutally beaten by her new husband and took her own life in March this year.
Women’s groups organised protests in Amina’s memory and there is some support for change; however, those in power - the political and religious leaders - are still violently espousing the ultra-conservative line. If a girl chooses to express her love for her partner, she is jailed; if she is raped by a man, she becomes his wife. The struggle for sexual equality in Morocco has a long, bitter fight ahead.
The protest’s Facebook page, We are all Amina Filali, can be found here.
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