Moroccan authorities often fail to prevent domestic violence, protect survivors, and punish abusers. We want the Moroccan Minister of Women to strengthen and adopt laws to improve protection for victims of domestic violence. We are asking for your support to back women’s calls for a strong law! Jihan is a domestic violence survivor who wants the government to help women like her. Here is her story.
Jihan (name changed to protect her privacy), 18, told Human Rights Watch that she married a man more than 10 years her senior when she was 15 or 16, and lived with him in a village in El Jadida province, Morocco. She said she married him to escape her father’s violence against her. They had a son who was 2 years old at the time of the interview.
Jihan said her husband abused her from the outset of the marriage:
Starting from the first night of marriage [my husband] didn’t respect me. He brought his friends… He asked me to do things against religion like getting naked and dancing when his friends came. He would play music. I would refuse and he would beat me.
She said her husband raped her repeatedly. “He forced me [to have sex], even if I refused.” She said he beat her every few days, once banging her head on the kitchen sink and causing a gash that required stitches.
When she went to the local police station for help, she said “They [police] said to me, ‘It’s your husband. We can’t do anything. Go to court.’ Even when I had bruises.”
In April 2015, she said, he beat and choked her until she lost consciousness. “I woke up and found myself on the street in my pajamas,” she said. “I went to the police. They said, ‘We can do nothing for you.’ I told them he won’t let me back in the house. They called him but he said, ‘It’s the wrong number.’” She said the police did nothing else, so she went to her sister’s house. Her husband found her and took her back home.
Jihan said that in August, after many more beatings, she asked her husband for a divorce. He replied, “You want a divorce? You can have it this way.” Then he punched her in the eye and attempted to slash her face with a knife. She raised her arm in defense, and he slashed her arm instead. A Human Rights Watch researcher observed fresh stitches on her arm. Jihan said that she did not file a criminal case because, “I am afraid he will take revenge or kill me.”
Jihan was staying at a shelter run by a nongovernmental organization at the time of the interview, and felt she had nowhere else to turn. She said her son was with his paternal grandmother and she wanted to get him back. She said she also wanted a divorce, but her father refused to hand over her marriage certificate for the divorce application. She said he told her, “In our family, no women get divorced. Stay with him even if he wants to kill you.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed “Jihan,” along with 19 other women and girls in Morocco, in September 2015. Her case exemplifies the types of domestic abuse the women experienced and the weak response by the Moroccan government.
Human Rights Watch found that Moroccan authorities often fail to prevent domestic violence, protect survivors, and punish abusers.
Domestic violence survivors like Jihan deserve much more from their government. Morocco should strengthen and adopt laws to improve protection for victims of domestic violence. Human Rights Watch wrote to the Moroccan government, including Bassima Hakkaoui, minister of women and family, to ask the officials to strengthen the bill on violence against women, the penal code reforms, and the criminal procedure reforms in the following areas:
Definition and Scope of Application of Domestic Violence Laws: The bills should clearly define “domestic violence,” and criminalize marital rape. In line with UN standards, the definition should include former spouses and individuals in non-marital intimate relationships.
Prevention Measures: The bills should require prevention measures, including awareness-raising, educational curricula, and sensitizing the media about violence against women.
Law Enforcement and Public Prosecution Responsibilities: The bills should specify police and prosecutor duties in domestic violence cases. They should require police and public prosecutors to coordinate directly, rather than telling complainants to deliver messages between the two.
Justice System Responsibilities: The bills should clarify that a domestic violence complainant’s testimony may, in some circumstances, be sufficient evidence for a conviction, without other witnesses.
Orders for Protection: The bills should specifically provide for emergency and longer-term protection orders – that is, restraining orders – for domestic violence survivors at risk of abuse. Moroccan law does not currently provide for such orders. The bill should clarify conditions, and establish clear procedures, for both types of orders.
Other Services and Assistance for Survivors: The bills should provide for support and services to domestic violence survivors, including shelter, health services, psychosocial care, legal advice, and hotlines. The government should create a trust fund or other financial assistance for survivors of domestic violence.
For more information, including our full set of recommendations to the Moroccan government, see Morocco: Tepid Response on Domestic Violence
If you want to help women in Morocco like Jihan, call on Bassima Hakkaoui, Morocco’s Women and Family minister, to strengthen and adopt the bill on violence against women :