By Karim Ben Mansour
Law No. 13-103 on combating violence against women has entered into force in Morocco since Wednesday, September 12, 2018, after it was approved by the Board of Advisors (the second chamber in the parliament) on January 30, 2018 and ratified by the parliament, last February, following the growing phenomenon of harassment, rape and violence against the Moroccan women.
During the recent years, Morocco has witnessed a rise in sexual harassment and violence against women. “Laila Rihioui”, the representative of the UN Women's Organization in Morocco in 2017, said that about 6 million Moroccan women and girls have been subjected to violence, representing 62% of all the Moroccan women.
This dangerous reality has prompted the Moroccan women's organizations to organize many protests and rallies to pressure the government to enact a law that would toughen the punishment on the perpetrators of violence against women.
The controversial law went through six years of debate and it is considered as the second important law after the Family Code (The Mudawana) of 2004.
The tightening of punishment and raise of awareness
One of the most prominent features of the new Moroccan law is the tightening of punishment for the perpetrators of violence against the Moroccan women. In fact, those involved in the women’s assault are penalized by imprisonment for various periods according to the new legal definitions of these various manifestations.
The law defines the concept of violence against women as "any physical or moral violence or exclusion based on gender discrimination resulting in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm to women".
The law also defines harassment as " the bothering of others by acts, statements, sexual gestures for sexual purposes, whether in the public sphere or through texting, electronic messages, recordings or images of a sexual nature."
According to the new law, any harasser is punished by a prison sentence of one month to six months, plus a fine of up to 10 000 dirhams (approximately $ 1 000), and this punishment is doubled, in case the perpetrator is a colleague or is working under the security force in the public spaces.
If the harasser is one of the victim’s relatives or a person charged of a minor and in case of an incest, the perpetrators are punished with 5 years of imprisonment and a fine of 50 000 dirhams “about $ 5 000”.
The law also penalizes people who defame women and violate their privacy through the social media. In fact, these people are punished by imprisonment from 6 months to 3 years and fined “$ 1 000”. In
addition, “anyone who is accused of capturing, recording, broadcasting and secretly distributing any personal information of a woman without her consent is subject to this punishment. "work of developing the preventive measures that sensitize people to the risk of the violence against women.
These measures are represented in " the establishment of special units to meet the needs of women and children in the courts, government agencies, security forces, and in the local, regional and national committees to address women's and children's issues.
Commenting on these provisions, “Fawzia Al-Assouli”, the president of the Euro-Mediterranean Women's Foundation and the president of the Federation of Women's Democratic Rights in Morocco, said that one of the law advantages is to tighten the punishment of rape and criminalize harassment in the public spaces and workplaces, as well as, through the social media.
The law’s deficiencies
However, the law has faced widespread criticism from a number of parliamentarians, specialists and trade unionists, as well as, international organizations. In a prior period, the Human Rights Watch sent a letter to “Hakim Benshmash”, the president of the Board of Advisors, and to “Bassima Hakkaoui”, the minister of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development, urging them to strengthen the law before its ratification for a better protection against the domestic violence and the prevention of marital violence.
The former minister of women, “Nouzha Skelli”, pointed out that the new law does not take into account the "international definitions" of the violence against women, explaining that the law does not criminalize the "marital rape."
“Fawzia Al-Assouli” supported the former minister's position, criticizing the absence of the definition of "domestic violence" and the explicit criminalization of the "marital rape."
The head of the Federation of Women's Democratic Rights in Morocco pointed to the failure of the law to determine the duties of the authorities, the public prosecution and the investigating magistrates in the cases of domestic violence, and to finance shelters for women. She also stressed that the law on women’s violence did not grant the women associations the civil status to resort to the judiciary as a civil party in the cases of violence against women ".
For “Zakia Al-Mirini”, an MP from the Authenticity and Modernity Party, said that the law is flawed despite its advantages, pointing out that it does not meet the expectations of the Moroccan women.
She said that one of the shortcomings is "the absence of the preventive measures to protect women from violence, as well as, the non-identification of the forms of violence, criticizing the non-involvement of the political parties and the civil society in the enactment of the law.”
In his turn, the lawyer in Rabat, “Hisham Al-Malih”, expressed his fears about the inability to implement the law on the ground, pointing out that it is difficult to find the "proof" for the "harassment" for instance as it is not a tangible and concrete fact.
He also pointed out that the perpetrator’s actions disappear, as soon as, the physical act occurs and it is certain that the harasser will retreat back and deny the incident.
The female trade unionists criticize the law
The trade union organizations and unionists had their own positions towards the law, since the beginning of the law discussions and even before it was presented to the parliament for its ratification, last February.work, the head of the Democratic Confederation of the House of Counselors and the member of the Committee of Justice and Legislation of the same council, “Thouraya Lahersh” pointed out that many legal expertise considered that the law contains several shortcomings and gaps and that it is merely a compilation of articles that already exist in the Criminal Code.
“Lahersh” said the law would not fully address the phenomenon of violence against women as it was sought by the concerned organizations with the protection of women against violence.
The Progressive Union of Moroccan Women, which was the women's union of the Moroccan Workers’ Union, was one of the first unions to ask for the enactment of laws that would protect women from sexual harassment and violence, especially at work. In fact, it had organized protests and meetings for the enactment of effective laws to protect women and even to pressure the successive governments of Morocco.
Although that the union has not yet issued a formal position towards the new law after its implementation, the law’s shortcomings and gaps revealed by the expertise will push the women's organizations and trade unions to impose more pressure on the government to overcome them through future amendments.