The Moroccan government is looking to amend a controversial law that allow rapists to marry their victims after a 16-year-old girl killed herself, the country’s communications minister has told Al Jazeera.
Amina Al Filali, 16, drank rat poison last week in Larache, near the city of Tangiers after being severely beaten during a forced marriage to her rapist.
The girl’s rapist had sought to escape prison by invoking an article of the penal code that he claimed would exonerate him if the rape victim was his wife.
Mustapha el-Khalfi, the Moroccan communications minister, told Al Jazeera: “We can’t ignore what happened, one of the things we are looking for is to toughen the sentence for rape.”
“We are also looking to creating a debate on the cultural and social aspects to create a comprehensive reform,” said el-Khalfi.
Women’s rights groups have said the law is used to justify a traditional practice of allowing a rapist to marry his victim to preserve the honour of the woman’s family.
Under Moroccan law, rape is punishable by five to 10 years in prison, rising to between 10 and 20 years if the victim is a minor.
Activist Abadila Maaelaynine wrote on the social network site Twitter: “Amina, 16, was triply violated, by her rapist, by tradition, and by Article 475 of the Moroccan law.”
An online petition was started and protests were planned for Saturday against the law branded by campaigners as an “embarrassment”.
Filali’s father said that when he reported the rape of his daughter, he was advised of the option to marry by court officials.
“The prosecutor advised my daughter to marry. He said: ‘Go and make the marriage contract’,” Lahcen Filali told the online news website goud.ma.
Local media has reported that the girl complained to her family about her mistreatment at the hands of the man who raped her, but they disowned her perhaps prompting her to take her own life.
In some societies, including several in the Arab world, the loss of a woman’s virginity outside of marriage is considered a dishonour to her family. Arrangements are often made for rape victims to marry their attackers.
Witnesses say her husband became so outraged when she drank the poison he dragged her down the street by her hair, and she died shortly afterward.
A Facebook page called “We are all Amina Filali” has been created. Campaigners are also calling for the judge who allowed the marriage and the rapist to be jailed.
Morocco updated its so-called family code in 2004 in a move to improve the situation of women, but activists say there is still room for improvement. Proposed constitutional reforms in Morocco include moves to boost women’s rights.
A government study last year found that about 25 per cent of Moroccan women have been sexually assaulted at least once in their lives.