Cablegate: Morocco Considers a Violence Against Women Law


DE RUEHCL #0232/01 3471705
O 121705Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. 07 Rabat 1869
B. 07 Casablanca 10

1. (U) SUMMARY: Despite substantial advances to women's rights
contained in the 2004 reform of the family code known as the
Mudawana, the government of Morocco still lags behind its
international commitments on the issue of violence against women.
Reports by women's shelters provide only a limited picture of the
scale of the problem and these same reports also note the
government's failure to implement already existing legislation.
According to women's rights organizations, a government of Morocco
(GOM) campaign to prevent violence against women launched in 2006
has had little follow-through and major legal reforms are still
needed. These organizations also report that the Ministry of Social
Development, the Family and Solidarity (MOSD) has organized a series
of meetings to solicit the input of NGOs on a draft law to create a
comprehensive law for violence against women. If and when such
legislation passes, it would be the first such law in an Arab
country. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- -
Violence against Women in Morocco: An Overview
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (U) The principal sources for information on violence against
women comes from two organizations which operate networks of
counseling centers where women are able to receive legal and social
services. The Anaruz network consists of 31 centers which
collectively reported 16,527 complaints of physical and sexual
violence in 2007. The Ligue Democratique des Droits des Femmes
(LDDF) coordinates 12 centers which reported 3,569 cases of violence
in the same year. The GOM does not publish any statistics
concerning incidents of violence against women. Figures from both
networks indicate that in 9 out of 10 cases of violence against
women, the assailants are men with whom the victims' have had an
intimate relationship, and in 8 out of 10 cases, the perpetrator is
the husband. These counseling centers exist exclusively in urban
areas and services for victims of violence in rural areas are
limited to the local police. Finally, these centers offer daytime
services only. Women's NGOs were only able to name one residential
shelter outside of Rabat, though other may exist.

3. (U) According to Stephanie Bordat of Global Rights, an
international women's rights NGO, there are problems with both the
formulation of the laws dealing with assault and how they are
implemented in cases of domestic violence. Bordat maintains that
the police will not respond to domestic violence complaints unless
"there is blood." The Penal Code divides assault into two
categories; high-level misdemeanors when the victim suffers injuries
resulting in 20-days disability from work and low-level misdemeanors
for any period of disability less than 20-days. Bordat reported
that the courts rarely punish perpetrators of low-level misdemeanors
and noted that domestic violence typically falls within this
category (slaps, scratches, threats, insults, etc.) The
conservative mentality of the police and court officials is another
hindrance to the implementation of the law. The authorities, Bordat
claimed, are hesitant to prosecute the offender out of concern for
breaking up the family or offending social norms.

Current Legal Deficiencies:

4. (U) Many women's rights organizations argue that substantial
reforms to the Penal Code or the passage of a comprehensive law
addressing the issue of violence against women needs to be
implemented to address the deficiencies in Moroccan law. The United
Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women (CEDAW) in response to Morocco's third and fourth
periodic report in February of 2008 expressed its deep concern that
no specific legislation exists on violence against women and girls.
Currently violence against women is covered under applicable section
of the penal and family code.

5. (U) The Penal Code maintains the concept of a husband's legal
authority over his wife even though the 2004 Mudawana reforms
abolished the wife's duty of obedience to her husband. For example,
articles 494 and 496 of the Penal Code make it a criminal offense to
harbor a married woman who has left her conjugal home without the
consent of her husband and equate it with abduction. While women's
rights organizations are not aware of any case where this law has
been implemented, they point out that it is a legal obstacle that
leaves shelters vulnerable to prosecution for providing refuge to an
abused woman.

6. (U) Women's rights organizations also point out that civil
remedies for dealing with cases of domestic abuse such as temporary
restraining orders, mechanisms to order the violent offender out of
the home, or financial maintenance during separation do not exist
under current laws.

7. (U) Regarding the issue of rape, women's rights organizations
point to numerous articles of the law which they believe perpetuate
unequal treatment for women and insufficient protection. Foremost,
the concept of marital rape does not exist as a criminal offense in
the Penal Code. In addition, these organizations do not accept that
the rape of a virgin should carry a heavier sentence since they
believe that a woman's sex life should be a purely private matter.
Sexual relations between unmarried persons and adultery are criminal
offenses and since non consent can be difficult for a victim to
prove, the victim is vulnerable to the possibility of charges being
brought for having engaged in illicit sex. Also, the prosecution of
the rapist of underage girls can be cancelled if the rapist agrees
to marry his victim.

8. U) Sexual harassment is covered in a limited fashion by the law
and is punishable only in the workplace when committed by one's
superior and is defined as an abuse of authority. The law does not
include sexual harassment by peers or other colleagues, hostile
environment, or stalking.

Government Efforts:

9. (U) At the end of November 2006 the GOM launched a national
campaign on violence against women under the slogan, "Towards a law
on violence against women." The campaign consisted of awareness
raising through the media, the creation of "green line" for female
victims of violence, and the creation of "gender focal points" or an
official responsible for violence against women at the courts,
hospitals, and police stations. Finally, as the slogan suggests,
the MOSD committed itself to the passage of a law specifically
dealing with violence against women.

10. (U) Zahia Ammoumou, a lawyer who deals with domestic violence
cases and a member of the Association Democratique des Femmes du
Maroc (ADFM), offered a critical appraisal of the GOM's follow
through since 2006. "The truth is that little has been done since
the campaign was launched. The hotline does little more than
provide the locations of NGO-run counseling centers, the focal
points exist on paper only, and most importantly the government has
not taken any concrete steps to reform the Penal Code or pass
violence against women law."

--------------------------------------------- ------
A Comprehensive Violence Against Women Law or Penal Code Reforms
--------------------------------------------- ------

11. (U) The GOM has sent mixed signals regarding whether it intends
to move forward with simply reforming certain parts of the existing
Penal Code or enact a comprehensive Violence against Women Law. In
early December Rachida Tahiri, chief of staff at the MOSD, hosted a
meeting at the Ministry which was attended by over sixty
representatives of women's rights organizations from all over
Morocco. Tahiri solicited input on the shape that either a
comprehensive law on violence against women or a reform of the Penal
Code should take. She did not commit the Ministry to one plan over
the other but indicated that the MOSD would put forth its proposal
to the government in March of 2009.

12. (U) On December 12th, the 60th anniversary of the United
Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, King Mohammed VI
announced that the GOM would drop all its reservations of the United
Nations' CEDAW Convention which will be reported septel.

13. (U) COMMENT: Morocco has made great strides in its legal
reforms advancing the rights of women but as many organizations have
noted, violence against women remains a significant problem. In
addition, there is a substantial gap between the current legislation
on the books and their implementation. In light of the removal of
the GOM's reservations from the CEDAW and signs against the MOSD, it
appears likely that the GOM will take steps to resolve some of the
legal deficiencies outlined above. If Morocco were to pass violence
against women law, it would be the first of such legislation passed
in an Arab country. END COMMENT.


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