Five years after lawmakers in Morocco first introduced a measure to prohibit violence against women, the policy is finally in effect.
The country’s parliament approved the measure to make women’s safety the law of the land on Feb. 14. The new policy — colloquially known as the Hakkaoui law, after family affairs and women's issues minister Bassima Hakkaoui — criminalizes “acts considered forms of harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill treatment” of women in the country. It also criminalizes cyber harassment and forced marriage, Al Arabiya reports.
The legislation is a major win for activists who have long rallied for Morocco to formally recognize women’s right to safety by drafting laws that protect women and punish abusers. Demands for new laws to punish violence against women intensified after a video of teenagers sexually assaulting a woman on a bus while other passengers ignored the woman’s cries for help spread rapidly in August 2017.
According to the EuroMed Rights, which advocates for countries to enact laws that protect women from violence, Morocco had previously classified rape as a crime against morality rather than a person and did not punish marital rape, sexual harassment in public, and psychological violence.
Under the new law, perpetrators of sexual harassment, exploitation, online harassment, and force marriage could face anywhere from one month to five years in prison and fines ranging from $200 to $1,000, Al Jazeera reports.
More than 40% of women between ages 18 and 64 who participated in a survey by Morocco's High Commission for Planning said they experienced “an act of violence at least once.”
According to a report by Morocco World News, more than half of the incidents of violence against women are committed by husbands.
As a result, some activists say the law does not go far enough in fostering equality for women in Morocco as it does not definitively ban marital rape or spousal abuse and does not define domestic violence in specific and certain terms. Critics of the measure's shortcomings also point out that the law does not do enough to account for supporting victims and survivors, Al Jazeera reports.
“This #VAW Law is not well received by women activists in #Morocco as they consider it unsatisfactory,” tweeted activist Hanane Zelouani Idri.
2/This #VAW Law is not well received by women activists in #Morocco as they consider it unsatisfactory:https://t.co/BC3UKP2Qo5@MinaList@VitalVoicesMENA@WLP_intl@WilsonCenterMEP@NDIWomen@monaeltahawy@EyeOnDemocracy@kathkuehnast@iKNOW_Politics@whrdmena@kathkuehnast— Hanane Zelouani Idri (@Lala_Fatna) February 15, 2018
This post was originally published on Feb. 15, and has been updated to reflect the policy officially going into effect.