One of my favourite things about teaching English in a new country is the amount of information that I learn about the place from the students. I have learned many interesting things about Morocco, some positive and some negative. This blog post has a much more serious tone than all of the others posted so far, but I feel it’s something that needs to be shared.
In Morocco, when a man rapes a woman he may avoid a prison sentence if he marries his victim. I know that might sound incredibly absurd; I couldn’t believe it the first time I heard about it. You may be wondering why the woman would ever agree to such a terrifying arrangement. Well, when a female is raped, it is considered shameful for her family. Girls must be virgins until their wedding day. So if a young girl is raped and doesn’t marry her rapist, she will likely never marry again. Marriage is a very important of the Muslim culture and its value is discussed in the Quran. Something my students have told me is that for many Moroccans, it is more important what society and their neighbours think about them, rather than what they think is right and wrong. That’s why parents might convince their daughters to marry their rapist. You may think that the parents are at fault here, but I don’t think that’s the case. As outsiders, we don’t understand the stigma attached to the loss of virginity in the Muslim religion. We don’t know what it really means to be shamed and ostracized from a community. We couldn’t imagine not being able to simply move away and leave our problems behind. We likely could not even begin to imagine being in a situation where our parents would impose such a frightening thing on us. For reasons such as these I think this issue goes beyond an individual person’s control.
In many of these cases, the women are actually young girls and the men are significantly older than them. This means that girls in their mid teens might marry men in their mid twenties to early thirties. I would like to point out that this happens in small towns and villages more often than in cities, where illiteracy rates are high. There was one very significant event that took place in 2012. A young girl aged 16, named Amina Filali, was raped by a man in a small northern town called Larache. Her parents said that the judge forced the marriage on their family. Amina was incredibly unhappy being married to her rapist; he was abusive to her. All of this caused her to ingest rat poison and commit suicide. This particular case caused a huge uproar with many women’s rights activists and Moroccans who opposed this law. There were many protests in the city’s capital, Rabat. However, the law has not been changed.
Two of my students have done presentations in class about this topic, and many others have brought it up in discussions. It is evident to me that this occurrence was a significant moment in Morocco’s history and that it will continue to be one until the law is changed. All of my students who voiced their opinions agreed that such a law should not be part of the constitution and that rapists should be put in jail. However, these students come from wealthy and educated families. This makes me think and hope that if this rape law will ever be changed, it will be because people like them will grow up well educated and continue to lobby against it.