A law, namely Law 103-13, to combat violence against women in Morocco entered into force Wednesday, and will provide women with legal protection from "acts considered forms of harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill-treatment".
The text of the new law was drafted five years ago and was adopted by Parliament in February. Minister of Solidarity, Women, and Family Bassima Hakkaoui hailed the legislation as "one of the most important texts strengthening the national legal arsenal in the area of equality of the sexes.”
Former Women's Minister Nouzha Skalli argued that it fails to take into account "international definitions" of violence against women. For example, marital rape is not criminalized under the new legislation.
Commenting on the law, international human rights lawyer Willman Bordat told Morocco World News, “What the law basically did is create a couple of new crimes, or it increased the prison time for the crimes that already existed. The problem is that for those to be implemented, the law has to include items related to the reporting and investigation and prosecution. In other words, to be implemented, the law has to put into place the implementing mechanisms.”
The law came after years of heated debate and after thousands called for action in a recent gang-rape case involving the 17-year-old Khadija Okkarou. She posted a video online last month saying that she had been kidnapped, raped and tortured by 12 men over a period of two months.
Her alleged rapists also tattooed her body against her will, writing their names on her skin. Her testimony triggered a petition signed by thousands of people urging King Mohammed VI to provide her with medical and psychological care.
Another 24-year-old woman filed a complaint against three men for harassment Tuesday. She is believed to be the first woman to benefit from the legal change.
The law is welcomed by people as sexual harassment is widespread in Morocco, despite the new constitution of 2011 enshrining gender equality.
More than 40 percent of women said they had been "victims of an act of violence at least once," in a survey carried out by Morocco's High Commission for Planning, which surveyed those living in towns and aged between 18 and 64.
Morocco’s rate of reported rapes increased to 1,600 cases in 2017 from 800 in 2016, according to an annual report issued by the attorney general.