After being first proposed in 2006, the Moroccan parliament passed a historic legislation criminalizing violence against women. However, while the law extends the definition of violence to many acts of aggression against women, spousal abuse – including marital rape – is excluded from the new law.
The new law covers aggression and abuse via text messages, vocal messages or photos, sexual exploitation, aggression and abuse in the workplace. Punishments are more severe for violence against pregnant women or violence committed by persons who are known to the victim, for example colleagues in the workplace.
Sexual harassment on the streets can now land the abuser six months in prison, while forcing a minor into marriage is punishable by one year in prison.
While women’s organizations hailed the law for the good it does, activists criticized its shortcomings – specifically called out the fact that the law exempts spousal abuse and rape.
In addition, former minster for women’s rights and gender-equality activist Nazha a-Sacli said while the law does make some improvement in the current Moroccan criminal law, it is still based upon outdated concepts that no longer apply in our times, such as criminalizing sexual relations outside of marriage.
The Federation of the Association of Women’s Rights said that even though the law has many positive aspects, it has not reached the level of “independent law” and it omits many important points, such as specifically acknowledging violence as a form of discrimination against women and as a violation of their human rights. In addition, the federation said the law does not address measures that need to be taken to protect women and prevent violence.
A survey carried out among women between the ages of 18 and 64 who live in cities in Morocco indicated that more than 40 percent have experienced gender-based violence at least once in their lives.
In addition, an official governmental study reported that a total of six million women in Morocco – representing 62 percent of all women in the country — have experienced gender-based violence. Married women accounted for more than half of those numbers.
In November of 2016, the Moroccan lifestyle show Sabahiyat created an enormous controversy in the country after it broadcast a tutorial on how to use makeup to “camouflage traces of violence.” The show (see below) aired as part of the campaign to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.