Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law punishes individuals 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. Numerous articles of the penal code pertaining to rape perpetuate unequal treatment for women and provide insufficient protection. On September 12, a new law came into effect that provides a stronger legal framework to protect women from violence, sexual harassment, and abuse. Under the new law, a sexual assault conviction may result in a prison sentence of six months to five years and a fine of 2,000 to 10,000 dirhams ($210 to $1,050). For insults and defamation based on gender, an individual may be fined up to 60,000 dirhams for insults and up to 120,000 dirhams for defamation ($6,300 to $12,600). General insult and defamation charges remain in the penal code. Some women’s rights NGOs criticized the lack of clarity in procedures and protections for reporting abuse under the new law. In the past, authorities did not effectively enforce laws against sexual harassment; the impact of the new law was not yet clear by year’s end. According to local NGOs, survivors did not report the vast majority of sexual assaults to police due to social pressure and the concern that society would most likely hold the victims responsible. Police selectively investigated cases; among the minority brought to trial, successful prosecutions remained rare.
The law does not specifically define domestic violence against women and minors, but the general prohibitions of the criminal code address such violence. Legally, high-level misdemeanors occur when a victim’s injuries result in 20 days of disability leave from work. Low-level misdemeanors occur when a victim’s disability lasts for less than 20 days. According to NGOs the courts rarely prosecuted perpetrators of low-level misdemeanors. Police were slow to act in domestic violence cases, and the government generally did not enforce the law and sometimes returned women against their will to abusive homes. Police generally treated domestic violence as a social rather than a criminal matter. Physical abuse was legal grounds for divorce, although few women reported such abuse to authorities.
In August, Khadija Okkarou, 17, reported to the authorities that she was kidnapped in Oulad Ayad in June and held for two months by a group of men who raped her repeatedly and forced her to consume drugs and alcohol. Police arrested 12 suspects on charges for abduction, rape, and torture. On December 11, the court of appeals in Beni Mellal postponed the trial hearing to January 9, 2019.
Statistics on rape or sexual assault were unreliable due to underreporting.
The government funded a number of women’s counseling centers under the Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family, and Social Development. Statistics provided by the government indicated that it provided 30.8 million dirhams ($3.2 million) in direct support to 172 women’s counseling centers for female survivors of violence. A few NGOs provided shelter, assistance, and guidance for survivors 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.
Sexual Harassment: Before September 12, sexual harassment was only a crime if it was committed by a supervisor in the workplace. Under a new law, sexual harassment is a crime punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine up to 10,000 dirhams ($1,050) if the offense takes place in a public space or by insinuations through texts, audio recording, or pictures. In cases where the harasser is a coworker, supervisor, or security official, the sentence is doubled. Prison sentences and fines are also doubled in cases where a spouse, former spouse, fiance, or a family member perpetrates the harassment act, physical violence, or abuse or mistreatment or breaks a restraining order or if the crime is perpetrated against a minor. In the past, authorities did not effectively enforce laws against sexual harassment. As of year’s end, it was too soon to assess the impact of the new law.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: While the constitution provides women equal rights with men in civil, political, economic, cultural, and environmental affairs, laws favor men in property and inheritance. Numerous problems related to discrimination against women remained, both with inadequate enforcement of equal rights provided for by the laws and constitution and in the reduced rights provided to women in inheritance.
According to the law, women are entitled to a share of inherited property, but a woman’s share of inheritance is less than that of a man. Women are generally entitled to receive half the inheritance a man would receive in the same circumstances. A sole male heir would receive the entire estate, while a sole female heir would receive half the estate with the rest going to other relatives.
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 their provisions. Corruption among working-level court clerks and lack of knowledge about its provisions among lawyers were also obstacles to enforcing the law.
The law requires equal pay for equal work, although in practice this did not occur.
The government led some efforts to improve the status of women in the workplace, most notably the constitutional mandate, established by parliament in August 2017, for the creation of an Authority for Gender Parity and Fighting All Forms of Discrimination. The Gender Parity Authority, however, has yet to become functional.
Birth Registration: The law permits both parents to pass nationality to their children. The law establishes that all children have civil status regardless of their family status. There were, nonetheless, cases in which authorities denied identification papers to children because they were born to unmarried parents, particularly in rural areas or in the cases of poorly educated mothers unaware of their legal rights. According to Amazigh NGOs, during the year representatives of the Ministry of Interior refused to register the births of at least two children whose parents sought to give them Amazigh names. The government determined that the cases brought to its attention by the press or at the request of civil society had been denied because the applicants submitted the request to the wrong territorial jurisdiction or did not provide the necessary supporting documents.
In December 2017 the government launched a campaign to register all nonregistered children, particularly those born to unknown fathers, from families in situations of parental conflict, and from families facing financial hardships. An estimated 90 percent of citizens are registered. As of September 30, there were 43,820 individuals newly registered under the campaign, including 36,831 children, 50 percent of whom were girls.
Also in January a court in Nador ordered children born in the country to migrants to be registered in the civil registry, allowing them to obtain identification documents that permit enrollment in school.
Child Abuse: NGOs, human rights groups, media outlets, and UNICEF claimed child abuse was widespread. Official data on child abuse does not exist. Prosecutions for child abuse were extremely rare.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 years, but parents, with the informed consent of the minor, may secure a waiver from a judge for underage marriage. The judiciary approved the vast majority of petitions for underage marriages.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent is 18 years. The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation, sale, offering or procuring for prostitution, and practices related to child pornography. Penalties for sexual exploitation of children under the criminal code range from two years’ to life imprisonment and fines from 9,550 dirhams ($1,000) to 344,000 dirhams ($36,100).
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
The constitution recognizes the Jewish community as part the country’s population and guarantees to each individual the freedom to “practice his religious affairs.” Community leaders estimated the size of the Jewish population at 3,000 to 3,500. Overall there appeared to be little overt anti-Semitism, and Jews generally lived in safety.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, and access to health care. The law also provides for regulations and building codes that provide for access for persons with disabilities. The government did not effectively enforce or implement these laws and regulations. While building codes enacted in 2003 require accessibility for all persons, the codes exempt most pre-2003 structures, and authorities rarely enforced them for new construction. Most public transportation is inaccessible to persons with disabilities, although the national rail system offers wheelchair ramps, accessible bathrooms, and special seating areas. Government policy provides that persons with disabilities should have equal access to information and communications. Special communication devices for persons with visual or audio disabilities were not widely available.
The Ministry of Social Development, Family, and Solidarity has responsibility for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and attempted to integrate persons with disabilities into society by implementing a quota of 7 percent for persons with disabilities in vocational training in the public sector and 5 percent in the private sector. Both sectors were far from achieving the quotas. The government maintained more than 400 integrated classes for children with learning disabilities, but private charities and civil society organizations were primarily responsible for integration.
The majority of the population, including the royal family, claimed some Amazigh (Berber) heritage. Many of the poorest regions in the country, particularly the rural Middle Atlas region, were predominantly Amazigh and had illiteracy rates higher than the national average. Basic governmental services in this mountainous and underdeveloped region were lacking. Official languages are Arabic and Amazigh, although Arabic predominates. Amazigh cultural groups contended they were rapidly losing their traditions and language to Arabization. The government offered Amazigh language classes in some schools. Although the palace-funded Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture created a university-level teacher-training program to eliminate the shortage of qualified teachers, Amazigh NGOs contended that the number of qualified teachers of regional dialects of Amazigh languages continued to decrease. The government reported, however, that the number of teachers employed to teach the official national Amazigh language has increased. Instruction in the Amazigh language is mandatory for students at the Ministry of Interior’s School for Administrators.
Amazigh materials were available in the news media and, to a much lesser extent, educational institutions. The government provided television programs in the three national Amazigh dialects of Tarifit, Tashelhit, and Tamazight. According to regulations public media are required to dedicate 30 percent of broadcast time to Amazigh language and cultural programming. According to Amazigh organizations, however, only 5 percent of broadcast time was being given to Amazigh language and culture. The National Federation of Amazigh Associations submitted a complaint to the High Authority for Audiovisual Communications in June 2017 to request compliance with the quota.
For more information regarding the situation of Sahrawis in Moroccan-administered Western Sahara, see the Department of State’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights for Western Sahara.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, with a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Media and the public addressed questions of sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity more openly than in previous years. According to some human rights organizations, LGBTI victims of violence in high profile cases from previous years continue to be harassed when recognized in public.
Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to LGBTI persons, and the penal code does not criminalize hate crimes. There was a stigma against LGBTI persons, but there were no reports of overt discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, or health care.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons with HIV/AIDS faced discrimination and had limited treatment options. The Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS reported that some health-care providers were reluctant to treat persons with HIV/AIDS due to fear of infection. According to the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), treatment coverage increased from 16 percent in 2010 to 48 percent in 2016 and the new National Strategic Plan 2017-2021 commits the country to reduce new infections among key and vulnerable populations, eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, reduce AIDS-related deaths, confront discrimination, and strengthen governance for an efficient response.