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. Spousal rape is not a crime. A sexual assault conviction may result in a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of 15,000 dirhams ($1,800). Police were slow to act in domestic violence cases, and the government generally did not enforce the law. The vast majority of sexual assaults were not reported to police for social reasons; a 2010 government planning survey revealed that a victim’s husband committed 55 percent of the acts of violence against women, and the wife reported it in only 3 percent of cases. Police selectively investigated cases; among the minority brought to trial, successful prosecutions were rare.
Domestic violence was widespread. Statistics on rape or sexual assault were unreliable due to underreporting. A Bureau of Statistics October 2013 planning publication, The Moroccan Woman, by the Numbers, revealed that 62.8 percent of women reported suffering an act of violence in the preceding year, although these figures were based on a 2009 survey. Various domestic advocacy groups, such as the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, estimated that husbands perpetrated eight of 10 cases of violence against women.
On January 8, the Official Bulletin published an amended Article 475 of the family code implementing a change that disallowed rapists’ exoneration through marriage to their victims. Previously rapists could avoid punishment by marrying the victim. Nonetheless, numerous articles of the penal code pertaining to rape perpetuate unequal treatment for women and provide insufficient protection, despite 2009 revisions to the family 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. According to NGOs, the courts rarely prosecuted perpetrators of low-level misdemeanors. Police generally treated domestic violence as a social rather than a criminal matter. Statistics provided by the government in October indicated that it provided direct support to 50 counseling centers for female victims of violence as part of a broader effort to support 659 projects benefitting women in society.
Physical abuse was legal grounds for divorce, although few women reported such abuse to authorities. Domestic violence mediation generally occurred 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 NGOs reported that laws were often unenforced 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 Antitrust Network and the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, were also available to provide assistance and guidance to victims. Counseling centers existed exclusively in urban areas. Services for victims of violence in rural areas were generally limited to those provided by local police. Women’s shelters were not government funded. 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 brought together prosecutors, lawyers, judges, women’s NGO representatives, and hospital personnel to review domestic and child abuse cases to provide for the best interests of women or children according to proper procedure.
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 Democratic League for Women’s Rights, 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.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No law appears to prohibit FGM/C specifically, but there were no reports it occurred
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace is criminal only when it is an abuse of authority by a superior, as stipulated by the penal code. Violations are punishable by one to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 dirhams ($600 to $6,000). 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. Most feared losing their job as a result or worried about proving the charge. NGOs reported widespread sexual harassment contributed to the low rate of female participation in the labor force. Government figures stated that “acts of violence committed in a place of work registered by the authorities” had dropped by 10.7 percent to 528 incidents, although the total number was extremely low and likely not representative of the real number of incidents in the country.
Reproductive Rights: Women generally were not discriminated against in accessing sexual and reproductive health care, including for sexually transmitted infections. Contraception is legal, and most forms were widely available. Individuals and couples have the right to attain the highest standard of reproductive health free from discrimination, coercion, and violence and the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Skilled health 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 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 limited availability of 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. The law does not require equal pay for equal work.
Numerous problems related to discrimination against women remained. A Muslim woman’s share of an inheritance, determined by sharia (Islamic law), varies depending on circumstances but is less than a man’s. Under sharia, daughters receive half of what their brothers receive. If a woman is the only child, she receives half, and relatives receive the other half. A sole male heir would receive the entire estate. The 2004 reform of the family code did not change inheritance laws, which are not specifically addressed in the constitution.
According to the law, women are entitled to a one-third share of inherited property. While ministry decrees carry the force of law, implementation met considerable resistance from men in certain areas of the country. Despite lobbying by women’s NGOs, enforcement of these property laws remained inconsistent. The Ministry of Interior further pressed for local enforcement of women’s entitlement to collective land rights. A ministry circular published in 2012 requires all local authorities to follow the law rather than local customs, which in many regions allow male heirs to receive all lands. The government followed up with training for local authorities on the implementation of the land allocation process. Women’s NGOs continued to press the government to codify women’s rights in formal legislation.
The family code places the family under the joint responsibility of both spouses, makes divorce available by mutual consent, and places legal limits on polygamy. Implementation of family law reforms remained a problem. The judiciary lacked willingness to enforce them, as many judges did not agree with them. Corruption among working-level court clerks and lack of knowledge about its provisions among lawyers were also obstacles to enforcement of the law. Widespread female illiteracy also limited women’s ability to navigate the legal system. 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.” This section was used to return women involuntarily to abusive homes.
There were few legal obstacles to women’s participation in business and other economic activities. According to some entrepreneurs and NGOs, however, women experienced difficulty in accessing credit and owning and managing businesses. According to a 2011 government report, the rate of participation in the formal labor force for women was 25.5 percent. A 2012 study showed that women’s wages on average were 15 percent below those of men.
The government led some efforts to improve the status of women in the workplace, most notably the 2011 constitution mandate for the creation of an Authority for Gender Parity and Fighting All Forms of Discrimination, an institution that was being developed jointly between the parliament and the CNDH. Article 19 of the constitution provides for the equal status of women in the realms of civics, politics, economics, social relations, culture, and the environment. The country participated in the Equal Futures Partnership, a multilateral initiative that encouraged member countries to empower women politically and economically.
Rural women faced restrictions for social and cultural reasons. Women were not represented in leadership positions in trade unions.