Morocco uses legal and executive arsenal to combat violence against women

Drafting the law to combat violence against women was based on the constitution, which prohibits discrimination and guarantees the right to physical and moral sanctity.
Sunday 12/05/2019
Moroccan women activists replace the name of a street in Rabat with that of a famous Moroccan woman, March 10. (AFP)
Momentum for change. Moroccan women activists replace the name of a street in Rabat with that of a famous Moroccan woman, March 10. (AFP)

RABAT - Moroccan law defines violence against women as “any physical or moral act or abstention based on discrimination on grounds of sex, resulting in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm to women.”

Women’s rights activists fought to have the law adopted to end violence against women. Among acts criminalised by the measure are expulsion from the marital home, sexual harassment at the workplace and harassment by security forces.

Bassima Hakkaoui, Moroccan minister of family, solidarity, equality and social development, hailed the law as “revolutionary” when it was adopted last September. Now, she is proposing executive decrees to reinforce provisions of the Law on Combating Violence against Women by deciding the structure and make-up of counselling cells for women victims of violence at the various levels of public administration and government sectors, as well as defining government representation in primary courts and appellate courts.

The decrees would determine the composition of the national commission for the care of women victims of violence in addition to appointing representatives of various government departments at regional and local levels.

The government is asking survivors of violence to sue for protection but only a few women could do that. The law does not specify duties of the police or the public prosecutor and magistrates in domestic violence cases nor does it specify funding for shelters for battered women.

The Law on Combating Violence against Women lists specific violations that constitute violence against women, such as preventing the return of expelled spouse to the family home, forced marriage and wasting family funds out of spite. It provides protective measures, such as removing an abusive husband from the home and preventing him from approaching the victim, the residence or the children, notifying the offender that he is forbidden from disposing of joint property or funds of the spouses as well as criminalising sexual harassment by co-workers or public security agents.

Rothna Begum, a researcher for women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said Morocco’s law for combating violence against women recognises some forms of abuse faced by women from their husbands and families but leaves loopholes that should be addressed to protect victims and allow police and courts to do their job.

Saida Belhadid, president of the Women’s Rights Association of Ouarzazate, said implementation of the new law would alleviate blatant discrimination against women in Morocco and end violation of their physical integrity and ensure their human rights. She said recent statistics indicate a dangerous increase in the violence against women, making implementation of the law a necessity.

Hakkaoui said drafting the law to combat violence against women was based on the constitution, which prohibits discrimination, guarantees the right to physical and moral sanctity, in addition to the social policies of the government’s programme aimed at improving women’s conditions in Morocco.

She said various international conventions ratified by Morocco were among references used in drafting the law, especially the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its optional protocol.

The approaches adopted integrated a purely legal approach and a collaborative approach, along with consideration for social cohesion based on family cohesion. Hakkaoui insisted that the law provided for prevention, protection, care and empowerment, not just sanctions.

Anass Saadoun, a member of the Judges Club of Morocco, noted that promulgation of the law was, in itself, a positive step in the fight against violence, which has escalated in society in general and against women in particular.

Hakkaoui mentioned gains made in combating violence against women. The government is finalising a national strategy for combating violence against women. Seven laws have been already adopted.