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Honour laws too archaic: Moroccan rape victim saw no justice

By in Opinions
Moroccan laws hold tradition and honour in a higher regard than justice.

A 16-year-old Moroccan girl commits suicide; her reasons for doing so are almost as shocking as the act itself.

About a year before Amina Filali’s death, at the tender age of 15, she had been raped by a man 10 years her senior. Her family’s response to this tragic and destructive event was to preserve their family’s honour by forcing her to marry her rapist.

In any modern society, being forced to marry your rapist would be considered at minimum despicable or more likely a crime. However, as is common in rural areas of Morocco, it is traditional to marry the victim to the criminal to preserve the honour of the victim and to “resolve” the damage caused after the violation. The worst part is that this archaic tradition is backed up by Moroccan law.

Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code allows for the rapist of a minor to marry his victim to escape prosecution. The marriage between Amina and her rapist was presided over by a Moroccan judge. One year later, Amina Filali committed suicide by eating rat poison in her husband’s house.

Honour is somewhat of a foreign term in Western culture; Canada may be a land of immigrants but once people come here and adapt to the culture, the concept almost always disappears. Yet many parts of the world still operate on the assumption that to preserve one’s honour is of utmost importance.

There is of course a deeper issue at stake in the “honour” law; sexual equality is non-existent in Morroco. As is apparent from the forced marriage of Amina to her rapist, women have absolutely no say in their daily lives. Men have complete and utter control, backed by the state-run legal system.

Honour laws don’t have any place in the 21st century, let alone laws that excuse gender-inequality and sexual violence. That all cultures are equal does not however make them the same; each puts pride in different aspects of life. For Canada it is in the letter of the law as well as equality for all. In Morocco, it is ostensibly the principles of tradition and honour that are valued over other considerations.

It’s not uncommon in many cultures for the women to be blamed for their own rape, but this does not excuse the abandonment of a child to her rapist. Amina’s family is now without a daughter. The death of a young person is always a tragedy, no matter what the circumstance but this is made all the more tragic because it could have been avoided.


Photo: Saharauiak/Flickr

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