A year after 16-year-old girl committed suicide after being forced to marry her alleged rapist, the Moroccan government is planning on changing a law that allows rapists to avoid charges if they marry their victims.
Women's rights activists welcomed Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid's announcement, but said it was only a first step in reforming a penal code that does not do enough to stop violence against women in this North African kingdom.
A paragraph in Article 475 of the penal code allows those convicted of "corruption" or "kidnapping" of a minor to go free if they marry their victim and the practice has been encouraged by judges to spare family shame.
Last March, 16-year-old Amina al-Filali poisoned herself to get out of an abusive marriage to a 23-year-old she said had raped her. Her parents and a judge had pushed through the marriage to protect the family honour.
"Changing this article is a good thing but it doesn't meet all of our demands," said Khadija Ryadi, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. "The penal code has to be totally reformed because it contains many provisions that discriminate against women and doesn't protect women against violence."
The new article proposed on Monday, for instance, gives a 10-year penalty for consensual sex following the corruption of a minor but doubles the sentence if the sex results in "deflowering".
Fouzia Assouli, president of the Democratic League for Women's Rights, echoed Ryadi's concerns, explaining that the code only penalises violence against women from a moral standpoint "and not because it is just violence".
"The law doesn't recognise certain forms of violence against women, such as conjugal rape, while it still penalises other normal behaviour like sex outside of marriage between adults," she added.
Social Development Minister Bassima Hakkaoui, the sole female minister in Cabinet, said in September she would try to get the law out of parliament and passed.