Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
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 ($1,530). 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. Victims did not report the vast majority of sexual assaults to police due to social pressure, which would most likely hold the victim responsible. Police selectively investigated cases; among the minority brought to trial, successful prosecutions were rare. In 2013 articles of the penal code that criminalized hiding or subverting the search for a married woman, which in effect made domestic violence shelters illegal, were repealed.
Domestic violence was widespread. Statistics on rape or sexual assault were unreliable due to underreporting; no survey on the subject has been conducted since 2009. A Bureau of Statistics 2013 planning publication, The Moroccan Woman, by the Numbers, revealed that 63 percent of women reported suffering an act of violence in the preceding year, although the study based these figures on the 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.
Prior to 2014 rapists could avoid punishment by marrying the victim. A 2014 amendment to the penal code disallows rapists’ exoneration through marriage to their victims. 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. 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 generally treated domestic violence as a social rather than a criminal matter. Statistics provided by the government indicated that it provided direct support to 45 counseling centers for female victims of violence, and indirect support to 97 others, as part of a broader effort to support 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.
A small number of groups, such as the Anaruz Network and the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, were 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.
The government funded a number of women’s shelters under the Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family, and Social Development. 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, Mobilizing for Rights Associates, 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 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 ($511 to $5,108). 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. The government reported that 36 cases of sexual harassment were filed during 2015. Most women 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, although the total number of violent acts reported was extremely low and likely not representative of the real number of incidents in the country.
Reproductive Rights: Individuals and couples have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Authorities generally did not discriminate against women in accessing sexual and reproductive health care, including for sexually transmitted infections. Contraception is legal, and most forms were widely available. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the country has invested in increasing the availability of voluntary family planning services, expanding and improving maternal health care, and providing for access to obstetric care by eliminating fees.
The contraceptive pill is available over the counter, without a prescription. 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. In June the government proposed a draft law authorizing abortion in cases of rape, incest, or severe deformation, expanding existing legislation that allowed abortion in case of danger to the life of the mother.
The most recent UN statistics showed there were approximately 121 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the country in 2015 and that 57 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 years old used a modern method of contraception in 2011. 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 requires equal pay for equal work, although in practice this did not occur. Numerous problems related to discrimination against women remained, both with enforcement of equal rights provided for by the laws and constitution and in the reduced rights provided to women in inheritance. Implementation of laws and reforms met considerable resistance from men in certain areas of the country. Despite lobbying by women’s NGOs, enforcement of these property laws remained inconsistent.
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. Generally, women are 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 2004 reform of the family code did not change inheritance laws, which the constitution does not specifically address.
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 enforcement of the law. Widespread female 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 some entrepreneurs and NGOs, however, women had difficulty accessing credit and owning and managing businesses. Rural women faced restrictions on education and employment opportunities for social and cultural reasons. Trade unions did not have women represented in leadership positions.
The government led some efforts to improve the status of women in the workplace, most notably the constitutional mandate for the creation of an Authority for Gender Parity and Fighting All Forms of Discrimination, an institution that was being developed jointly between parliament and the CNDH, but remained unimplemented at year’s end. In October 2015 the CNDH issued a report citing continued widespread gender inequality and advocating reforms in line with the constitution, including creation of an independent and empowered Authority for Gender Parity and Fighting All Forms of Discrimination; changes to the family code; and reforms to the system of inheritance away from religious-based rules to one that ensures equality of men and women. Women’s rights NGOs continued to press the government to codify women’s rights in formal legislation.
Birth Registration: The law permits both parents to pass nationality to their children. There were, nonetheless, cases in which authorities denied identification papers to children because they were born to unmarried parents. In cases of undocumented children, NGOs, magistrates, and attorneys advocated for the children. The process of obtaining necessary identification papers was lengthy and arduous if not completed within 30 days of a child’s birth. According to press reports and Amazigh NGOs, during the year representatives of the Ministry of Interior refused to register the births of some children whose parents sought to give them Amazigh names.
Education: Education is free and compulsory through age 15 years old. Girls’ representation in education in recent years improved significantly, especially in urban areas.
Child Abuse: NGOs, human rights groups, media outlets, and the UN Children’s Fund claimed child abuse was widespread, although the government noted that reports are decreasing. Government statistics showed 6,830 cases of child abuse investigated this year, and 7,526 cases investigated in 2015. Anecdotal evidence showed that abuse of child domestic servants was a problem. On July 26, parliament passed a law prohibiting children under the age of 16 years old from working as domestic servants and strictly limiting the work of children under the age of 18 (see section 7.c.). Prosecutions for child abuse were extremely rare.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports managed 18 child protection centers, with five reserved specifically for girls. The centers house delinquents, homeless children, victims of domestic violence, drug addicts, and other “children in distress” who have not committed a crime, as well as children who have committed crimes or minor infractions but whom a court determines should not be housed in a juvenile “reform and education center” run by the prison administration. This mingling of children in conflict with the law and children in distress also occurred during other stages of the process. The centers provided educational and professional training, with a goal of reintegrating the minors into the society. While the budgets of the centers were low, conditions varied because some centers received charitable gifts.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 18 years old, 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. Child marriage remained a concern.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent is 18 years old. Penalties for sexual exploitation of children range from two years’ to life imprisonment and fines from 9,550 dirhams ($960) to 344,000 dirhams ($34,600). Convicted rapists and pedophiles are not eligible for pardons. Children engaged in prostitution, and the country was a destination for sex tourism. The penal code also provides punishment for child pornography.
During the year the government reported undertaking actions to implement its child protection policy adopted in 2014 and overseen by the Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family, and Social Development. Actions included cooperating with internet providers to protect children from exploitation and provide safe internet access; developing a responsible tourism communication strategy, in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism, to protect children; and raising awareness in the private tourism sector of children’s rights and preventing child sex tourism in accordance with the World Trade Organization’s global code of ethics.
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/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
Community leaders estimated the size of the Jewish population at 4,000. Overall, there appeared to be little overt anti-Semitism. The government protects and supports the Jewish community. The government provided appropriate security and Jews generally lived in safety. The community noted that tensions escalated when there was rising hostility between Israel and the Palestinians, although reports of anti-Semitic acts were rare.
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 was inaccessible to persons with disabilities, although the national rail system offered wheelchair ramps, handicap-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. Families typically supported persons with disabilities, although some survived by begging.
Many of the poorest regions in the country, particularly the 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 not extensive. Official languages are Arabic and Amazigh, although Arabic predominates. Instruction in the Amazigh language is mandatory for students at the interior ministry’s School for Administrators in Kenitra. French and Amazigh materials were available in the news media and, to a much lesser extent, educational institutions. On September 26, the Council of Ministers approved and sent to parliament for debate a draft law to implement the constitutional provision making Amazigh an official language. Parliament, however, was out of session and had not debated the law by year’s end.
The majority of the population, including the royal family, claimed some Amazigh heritage. Amazigh cultural groups contended they were rapidly losing their traditions and language to Arabization. The government provided television programs in the three national Amazigh dialects of Tarifit, Tashelhit, and Tamazight. The government has previously reported that it offered Amazigh language classes in the curriculum of 30 percent of schools. A lack of qualified teachers hindered otherwise expanding Amazigh language education. The palace-funded Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture created a university-level teacher-training program to eliminate the shortage of qualified teachers.
For more information regarding the situation of Sahrawis in Moroccan-administered Western Sahara, see the Department of State’s 2016 annual Country Reports on Human Rights for Western Sahara.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity with a maximum sentence of three years in prison. Same-sex marriage is not legally possible. Media and the public addressed questions of sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity more openly than in previous years.
The law criminalizes homosexual acts or “acts against nature,” as well as all sexual activity outside of marriage regardless of sexual orientation. 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 discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, or health care. Authorities prosecuted individuals engaged in same-sex sexual activity at least once during the year.
In one widely publicized case, on October 27, authorities arrested two minors, 16 and 17 years old, in Marrakech for “homosexuality” after one of the girls’ relatives saw them kissing and reported them to police. Media and NGOs reported that after a week in pretrial detention, the girls were granted provisional release pending a trial. On December 9, the two were found innocent.
Sexual orientation and gender identity constituted a basis for societal violence, harassment, blackmail, or other actions, generally at a local level, although with reduced frequency. There were reports of societal discrimination, physical violence, or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
For example, in March observers filmed a mob in Beni Mellal attacking two men presumed to be gay. The mob attacked the men in their home before making them undress and walk through the city’s streets to a police station, where the two were arrested and charged with homosexuality. Authorities later arrested several of the men involved in the attack. The court sentenced the attackers to between three and six months and gave suspended sentences to the two individuals accused of homosexual acts.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Persons with HIV/AIDS faced discrimination and had limited treatment options. A recent Afrobarometer poll reported that 60 percent of Moroccans would not welcome an HIV positive individual as their neighbor. 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. There are currently 16 HIV/AIDS treatment centers countrywide. There were domestic NGOs focused on treating HIV/AIDS patients.