Rape and Domestic Violence: The law punishes men convicted of rape with prison terms of five to 10 years; when the conviction involves a minor, the prison sentence ranges from 10 to 20 years. A sexual assault conviction may result in a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of 15,000 dirhams ($1,780. The government generally did not enforce the law. The vast majority of sexual assaults were not reported to police for social reasons. The police selectively investigated cases; among the minority brought to trial, successful prosecutions were rare.
Spousal rape is not a crime. Domestic violence was widespread. Various domestic advocacy groups, such as the Democratic League for Women’s Rights (LDDF), reported that in eight of 10 cases of violence against women, the perpetrator was the husband.
Numerous articles of the penal code pertaining to rape perpetuate unequal treatment for women and provide insufficient protection despite family law revisions. Statistics on rape or sexual assault were believed to be unreliable due to underreporting. However, a government planning survey revealed that 63 percent of women reported suffering an act of violence in the preceding 12 months.
One particularly high-profile case was that of 16-year-old Amina Filali, who committed suicide on March 10 after having been forced by social and familial pressure to marry a man who had raped her in September 2011. NGOs reported at least five similar cases in 2011. Filali’s death provoked a significant public debate over article 475 of the penal code, which provides for charges to be dropped against a rapist if the victim agrees to marry the perpetrator. The case also called into question the application of law concerning child marriage. As Filali was under the age of 18, the law allows a judge to authorize a minor to marry on the conditions that the minor and her guardian both sign the request; the judge conduct an inquiry into the health of the minor and her social situation; and the judge explain the rationale for approving the marriage. The minister of justice declared that both the judge and the prosecutor had properly applied the law.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence against women, but the general prohibitions of the criminal code address such violence. By law high-level misdemeanors occur when a victim suffers injuries that result in 20 days of disability leave from work. Low-level misdemeanors occur when victims suffer disability for less than 20 days. NGOs reported that the courts rarely prosecuted perpetrators of low-level misdemeanors and that police generally treated domestic violence as a social rather than a criminal matter.
Physical abuse was legal grounds for divorce, although few women reported abuse to authorities, with most known domestic violence mediated within the family. Women choosing legal action generally preferred pursuing divorce in family courts rather than criminal prosecutions.
The law is lenient toward husbands who commit crimes against their wives. Police rarely became involved in domestic disputes. Several women’s NGOs reported that laws were not often enforced due to societal pressures not to break up a family and to the conservative mentality of some police and court officials.
The government operated hotlines for victims of domestic violence. A small number of groups, such as the Antirust Network and the LDDF, were also available to provide assistance and guidance to victims. Counseling centers existed exclusively in urban areas, and services for victims of violence in rural areas were generally limited to local police. Women’s shelters were not government-funded, but a few NGOs made efforts to provide shelter for victims of domestic abuse. There were reports, however, that these shelters were not accessible to persons with disabilities. Courts had “victims of abuse cells” that bring together prosecutors, lawyers, judges, women’s NGO representatives, and hospital personnel to review domestic and child abuse cases in order to provide for the best interests of women or children according to proper procedure. Article 496 of the penal code, which criminalizes hiding married women, was used against domestic violence shelters in the past, but there were no reported cases of its use against officially recognized shelters during the year.
Many domestic NGOs worked to advance women’s rights and promote women’s issues. Among these were the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women, the Union for Women’s Action, the LDDF, and the Moroccan Association for Women’s Rights. All advocated enhanced political and civil rights for women. NGOs also promoted literacy and taught women basic hygiene, family planning, and childcare.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace is a criminal offense, but only when committed by a superior and defined as an abuse of authority. Authorities did not effectively enforce laws against sexual harassment. According to the government, although the law allows victims to sue employers, only a few did so, since most feared losing their job as a result or worried about proving the charge. NGOs reported widespread sexual harassment was one of several causes of the low rate of women’s labor force participation.
Reproductive Rights: Contraception is legal, and most forms were widely available. Individuals and couples were able to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The Ministry of Health ran two programs, one with mobile clinics providing maternal and child health and family planning services in remote rural areas, and the other involving systematic home visits to encourage the use of contraception and provide family planning and primary health-care services. However, NGOs reported that women often faced obstacles obtaining emergency contraception from pharmacies. Skilled attendance at delivery and postpartum care were available for women who could afford it, with approximately 74 percent of overall births attended by skilled health personnel. The most recent UN statistics showed that there were approximately 100 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the country in 2010 and that 52 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception in 2010. The major factors influencing maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence rates were female illiteracy, lack of knowledge about availability of services, cost of services, social pressure against contraceptive use, and transportation to health centers and hospitals for those in rural areas.
Discrimination: The constitution provides women equal rights in civil, political, economic, cultural, and environmental affairs--an improvement from the previous constitution, which provided only political equality. The constitution mandated the creation of a new body, the Authority for Equality and the Fight against all Forms of Discrimination, to monitor equality issues. Implementing legislation for the body had not been adopted by year’s end.
Numerous problems related to discrimination against women remained. A woman’s share of an inheritance, determined by Sharia (Islamic law) for Muslims, varies depending on circumstances but is less than a man’s. Under Islamic law daughters receive half of what their brothers receive, and if a woman is the only child, she receives half and other relatives receive the other half. A sole male heir would receive the entire estate. The reform of the family code did not change the inheritance laws, and the new constitution does not specifically address inheritance law.
According to Ministry of Interior decrees, women are entitled to a share of collective lands, which make up one-third of the country’s territory. While ministry decrees carry the force of law, implementation met considerable resistance from men. Despite considerable lobbying by women’s NGOs, enforcement of these property laws remained inconsistent, although the Ministry of Interior further pressed for local enforcement of women’s collective lands rights. A ministry circular published March 30 requires all local authorities to follow the law (in general, a male child is entitled to two-thirds, while a female child receives one-third), rather than custom and tradition. The government followed up with training for local authorities on the implementation of the land allocation process. Women’s NGOs reported that the situation improved over the course of the year but wanted the government to codify women’s rights in formal legislation.
The 2004 family code changed the minimum age of marriage for women from 15 to 18 (with the exception that a judge may approve underage marriage with parental permission), placed the family under the joint responsibility of both spouses, and rescinded the wife’s duty of obedience to her husband. The law removed the requirement for women to have a marital tutor as a condition of marriage, made divorce available by mutual consent, and placed legal limits on polygamy. The penal code criminalizes “knowingly hiding or subverting the search for a married woman who is evading the authority to which she is legally subject,” which has been used to involuntarily return women to abusive homes.
Implementation of the reformed family law remained a concern largely because of the judiciary’s lack of willingness to enforce it, as many judges did not agree with it. Corruption among working-level court clerks and lack of knowledge about its provisions among lawyers were also obstacles to greater enforcement of the law. Widespread women’s illiteracy also limited women’s ability to navigate the legal system.
There were few legal obstacles to women’s participation in business and other economic activities. According to a 2011 government report, the rate of participation in the formal labor force for women was only 25.5 percent, and a typical female worker earned 17 percent of what a man earned. The majority of women were illiterate, and rural women faced restrictions for social and cultural reasons. Women were not represented in leadership positions in trade unions. Most women were able to travel, receive loans, and start businesses without the permission of their husbands or fathers.