Moroccan women applaud anti-harassment law

Activist Samira Raiss has welcomed that Morocco’s law criminalising violence against women has come into force.

She has campaigned for years for such a law and told me she was happy that her hard work had finally paid off.

We will not stop here. This law is an asset but it has shortcomings that we have to work on.”

These shortcomings include a failure to provide a definition of domestic violence and it does not explicitly criminalise marital rape.

Ms Raiss added:

We lack the appropriate tools to implement this law. In case of marital violence it is difficult to provide proof and we don’t even have shelters for victims.”

Violence against women has become a hot topic in Morocco after cases of sexual harassment were highlighted on social media and by rights groups.

Bouthaina Karouri, an MP on the committee that drafted the law passed by parliament in March, admitted that “no law was perfect”.

Its effectiveness will depend on the approach adopted by the police and the judicial body. As it goes into effect, it is normal to discover some gaps but they can be amended in the future.”

Women in the capital, Rabat, have welcomed the new law – especially the banning of harassment in public places:

One told the BBC:

Women are often harassed in the street. This law is badly needed.”

Another added:

It is important to protect women against harassment. Women in public spaces suffer a lot from harassment.”

A government survey in 2009 found that more than 60% of Moroccan women had been subjected to some kind of violence.

One man interviewed on a street in Rabat told the BBC he was against the law because “many women like to be harassed”.

This new law is a significant step forward but critics wonder to what extent it will help change the harsh reality in the lives of many Moroccan women.

They say education and awareness are just as important to see real change.

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