Ordeal of rape victim Amina Filali shocks Morocco
Teenager killed herself after being forced to marry her attacker to save face
THE CASE of a teenage rape victim in Morocco who committed suicide after she was forced to marry her attacker has caused outrage and led to demands that the country, usually seen as a liberal voice in the Muslim world, changes its laws.
Amina Filali killed herself earlier this month after drinking rat poison in the town of Larache, halfway between Rabat and Tangiers.
According to the BBC, when the 16-year-old girl's family told the authorities she had been raped they were advised to let her attacker marry her, to preserve their honour. As a result Filali was then forced to marry the man she had accused, and when she complained to her relatives that he had beaten her she was disowned.
It was then that the desperate girl drank rat poison. But, according to witnesses, that was not the end of her suffering. Her husband became so enraged when he realised what had happened that he dragged her down the street by her hair as she died.
The case has uncomfortable echoes of similar scandals in less liberal states like Iran, and protesters are demanding that the government takes action to repeal the laws that allowed her death to happen.
Reforms introduced by King Muhammad VI in 2004 all but outlawed polygamy and "significantly improved" the situation for women in the country, according to OECD. Among other things, they abolished a woman's duty of obedience to her husband and allowed them to keep assets after divorce.
However, a law known as Article 475, which allows the "kidnapper" of a minor to marry his victim so that dishonour is not brought on her family, remained. And although the minimum age for marriage is supposedly 18, it can be lowered if there are "exceptional circumstances".
Legislation designed to outlaw all forms of violence against women, planned since 2006, has yet to see the light of day.
By agreeing to marry Amina, her attacker avoided a maximum sentence of 20 years, and cannot now be charged with her rape.
Protesters in Rabat and on the internet are demanding that the law is changed. Facebook and Twitter campaigns have been started and Sky quoted activist Abadila Maaelaynine saying: "Amina was triply violated, by her rapist, by tradition and by Article 475 of the Moroccan law."
The case of Falili echoes that of the Afghan woman Gulnaz, which generated headlines around the world last year. She ended up in jail for adultery after she was raped by her cousin's husband and fell pregnant. It was feared that on her release she would be forced to marry her attacker to legitimise the child.
Her ordeal drew attention to the plight of women in Afghanistan, ten years after the Taliban were overthrown. She was eventually released without conditions after President Hamid Karzai intervened.
In 2010, Iran's attitude towards women was in the spotlight when Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted of "adultery". Her fate remains unclear after reports last year that she would be executed by hanging.