New law that bars violence against women takes effect in Morocco

New laws in Morocco that outlaw forced marriages, sexual harassment and other forms of violence against women took effect on Wednesday.

Demonstrators hold signs that read, 'Stop Violence' to protest against violence against women in Rabat, Morocco, on November 25, 2016 -- which has been designated by the U.N. General Assembly as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. File Photo by Abdelhak Senna/EPA
Demonstrators hold signs that read, ‘Stop Violence’ to protest against violence against women in Rabat, Morocco, on November 25, 2016 — which has been designated by the U.N. General Assembly as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. File Photo by Abdelhak Senna/EPA

The sweeping actions against gender-based discrimination, passed six months ago, allow women in Morocco to file sexual harassment complaints and provide severe punishment to violators.

The change in the law also outlines prison terms of up to six months for anyone found guilty of sexual harassment in public places by use of words, acts or signals of a sexual nature.

The new laws also cover dissemination of false allegations, through cybercrime, telephone or broadcast, and ends the practice of forced marriage. It also supersedes the controversial 2014 “marry your rapist” law — that allowed those who sexually assault underage girls to avoid prosecution by marrying the children.

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Although the new law criminalizes forms of violence against women, critics say it is still somewhat vague.

“Do we need witnesses for the law to be implemented against a harasser?” asked Bouchra Abdou, president of the Association Tahadi for Equality and Citizenship. “We still don’t have a complete idea about how this law is going to work.”

Global activist organization Human Rights Watch said in February, when the law was passed, it provides protections for survivors but includes gaps that also should be addressed.

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“We will not stop here. This law is an asset but it has shortcomings that we have to work on.” said Samira Raiss, a Moroccan campaigner for the law. “We lack the appropriate tools to implement this law. In case of marital violence it is difficult to provide proof and we don’t even have shelters for victims.”

ByEd Adamczyk