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Morocco MPs Ask to End Rapist Marriage Law After Teen Suicide

Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- A Moroccan parliamentary panel voted to repeal a penal code allowing rapists to dodge lawsuits if they marry their victims.

The justice and legislation committee voted to scrap a clause in the penal code that stipulates there can be no grounds for lawsuits against those “who abducted or seduced a minor girl who has reached puberty, if she marries the person who abducted or seduced her,” the state-run MAP news agency said.

The Justice and Development Party, the moderate Islamist group that leads the government, endorsed the repeal after 16-year-old Amina Filali killed herself in 2012 by swallowing rat poison after six months of forced marriage to her rapist. The case sparked national outcry and focused media attention on the condition of women in a country that prides itself on being a haven of stability and religious tolerance in the Muslim world.

Support from the governing Islamists, who hold about a quarter of seats in parliament, means the law is likely to be repealed when it comes to a vote in the assembly.

Justice and Public Freedoms Minister Mustapha Ramid couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Filali wasn’t the first Moroccan girl to commit suicide because a judge acquiesced to her parents’ request that she marry the man who raped her,” Abdelilah Benabdeslam, of the country’s main human rights advocacy group AMDH, said in an telephone interview. “This is the first time however that the abolition of the infamous article 475 of the penal code is voted on by a parliament committee. It’s a victory for advocates of human rights in Morocco.”

Still, the lax implementation of laws and the mentality of the judges poses an obstacle, he said.

“It should be made clear that parents cannot seek judges’ approval for their daughters to marry anyone who abused them to avoid the social stigma rape victims carry in our country,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Souhail Karam in Rabat at skaram5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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