Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We Must Commit to Protect Women

"The lesson is that we must be committed permanently to the adoption of legislation against violence against women, in all its forms. Once fully enacted, this legislation will provide protection to the woman when she is being abused or threatened. We need the perpetrators of these crimes to be tried for violations of human rights."  – Ambassador Melanne Verveer (translated from French transcript)

Last week, Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, was in Morocco as part of a trip to Morocco and Tunisia to discuss ways to advance women’s empowerment and political and economic participation. Among other leaders in women’s rights, Ambassador Verveer had an opportunity to meet with our Maghreb Regional Director, Stephanie Willman Bordat.  The two were able to discuss the current situation of women’s rights in Morocco and agree that a violence against women (VAW) law in the country must be passed.

Global Rights Maghreb team and local partners at a sit-in at
the Moroccan Parliament for Amina Filali
Ambassador Verveer’s visit occurred while Morocco is still reeling from the tragic suicide of Amina Filali, a 16 year old girl who took her life after being forced to marry her rapist in order to preserve the honor of her family. Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code (yes, the actual law) allows a “kidnapper” to marry his victim if she is a minor, even though legal marriage age in Morocco is 18.

The ability of her rapist to escape responsibility for his crime is not only due to Article 475 but, also because of the lack of strong laws to protect women from violence.   Since 2006, the Moroccan government has been promising a VAW bill but, to date, the Family Ministry has not presented such a bill to the entire cabinet for approval.

Yet, model legislation is ready, crafted as a result of the hard work done by a vast network of women’s organizations that span the breadth and depth of the country.  To see the VAW legislation our local partners drafted, click here for Arabic, and a summary in French and English.

Global Rights has been working with these women’s organizations for over ten years to build their knowledge and skills on women’s legal rights in Morocco.  Coordinated by Global Rights, Moroccan women have come together to draft model legislation to combat violence against women.  Such legislation is needed to prevent more young girls and women, like Amina, from taking their own lives because of violence that has been perpetrated against them, for which they have no recourse. 

In 2009, the Maghreb team and their local partners organized an unprecedented three-week caravan throughout Morocco to mobilize support for a NGO drafted violence against women legislation. The caravan stopped in 33 cities, towns, and villages and had over 2,000 people participating in round table conferences and awareness-raising sessions.  Unlike anything that has been done before, this caravan encouraged women to speak out about domestic violence. At each and every event, participants told Global Rights at least one story of a woman who had committed suicide to escape from violence.

Ambassador Verveer’s remarks noted that the case of Amina Filali was a “wake up call” to take steps to pass a VAW law in Parliament.  I want to thank Ambassador Verveer for making the strong statement she did. We support the repeal of Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code and encourage a strong law that more comprehensively protects women from violence.

- Susan

Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth

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