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Worldwide protests after Moroccan rape law caused suicide

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A young Moroccan girl’s suicide has caused activists to take to the street. They are protesting against a law that makes it possible for rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims. That’s what happened to 16-year-old Amina Al Filali who, five months after a judge ordered the marriage, drank rat poison after being repeatedly beaten by her then attacker, now husband.

Moroccan law punishes rape by 5-10 years in prison, 10-20 years if the victim is underaged. But Article 475 of the constitution declares that a rapist or attacker of a minor cannot be prosecuted if he marries the victim. This as part of the cultural belief that exists in several societies that the loss of a woman’s virginity shames her and her family. The marriage should thereby save them from this dishonour.

Hundreds of thousands protesting

Last weekend hundreds of women’s rights activists marched in the Moroccan capital Rabat and staged a sit-in at the parliament, demanding a change in the penal code, reports There have also been protests in other cities worldwide and in social media, where the case has gotten its own Facebook-page and twitter hashtag: #RIPAmina. Over 650 000 people have also signed an online petition, to the Moroccan government, asking them to repeal Article 475.

Minister wants to toughen sentences

Morocco has updated its family code in recent years, including raising the marriage age from 15 to 18 and making it illegal for minors to be forced into marriage. But loopholes still exists.

- We can’t ignore what happened, one of the things we are looking for is to toughen the sentence for rape. We are also looking to creating a debate on the cultural and social aspects to create a comprehensive reform, Moroccan communications minister Mustapha el-Khalfi told Al Jazeera.