Morocco women struggle against marital violence, stereotypes

RABAT: For 23 years, Khadija says her husband raped her, nearly every day.

And her case is far from unique, according to counselors at the Annajda Center in Rabat, one of over 1,000 associations in Morocco working to advance women’s rights in the Muslim majority kingdom.

“I recall one time having just arrived home. He jumped on me at once, snatching my djellaba, and pushing me into the bedroom,” she recounted, her eyes wide with the pain of the memory of how her tormentor tore her long robe.

“I knew what awaited me. He beat me. He raped me. He left me in blood and tears,” she recounted to The Associated Press. She spoke on condition that her last name not be used, fearing for her safety.

Last month, Morocco’s Parliament passed a long-sought law on combating violence against women, recognizing some forms of abuse for the first time and criminalizing some forms of domestic violence. But critics say it doesn’t go nearly far enough to address the deep-seated problem in this North African country.

Amina Labouni, a social worker at the Rabat-based women’s center, said that on average, 40 women flock to the safe space each month, seeking legal consulting and psychological help.

“Unfortunately, most of the victims we receive end up not proceeding with legal measures against their spouses because they are the only bread providers in the household,” she said.

Women’s rights vary across North Africa, and Morocco took a big step toward improving them with a 2004 family code that raised the marriage age for women to 18 and granted women more marriage rights.

 Published in Daily Times, March 9th 2018.