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! Khadija is a domestic violence survivor who wants the government to help women like her. Here is her story.
Khadija (name changed to protect her privacy), 23, married in 2011 and lived with her husband in Oujda, Morocco. At the time of the interview, she had a 7-month-old son and was pregnant.
She said her husband beat her from the start of their marriage and during and after her pregnancy. He hit her on the head with the back of a knife, punched her face, and threatened to cut her face. “He knows I have nowhere else to go,” she said. “I had bruises all over my body.”
Khadija said that she went to the Oujda police many times, but they told her to go to the court and did not investigate. One time, she said, “I went at night with my nose bleeding and they said, ‘Leave, we can do nothing for you. Go tomorrow to the courthouse.’” On that occasion and others, she went to the prosecutor (in the courthouse), but the prosecutor did not file charges and sent her back to the police with a document directing the police to investigate. Each time she arrived at the police station with the document from the prosecutor, the police called her husband and told him to come to the police station, but he did not come. The police did not investigate further.
The police arrested her husband only once, in 2014, after he broke her nose while she was pregnant. A doctor issued a medical certificate indicating that she needed 21 days of rest for her injuries. Khadija showed the medical certificate to the prosecutor, who gave her an order to present to the police. She did, and the police arrested her husband. But before the case could proceed, Khadija dropped her complaint as she was seven months pregnant and worried what would happen to her if he was tried. The prosecutors did not pursue charges.
Khadija said her husband continued to beat her. She left him in August 2015 and went to a shelter. She wants a divorce, but fears she will have no choice but to return to him. She cannot stay in the shelter for more than two months, and has nowhere else to stay. She said: “Even if I get divorced, I don’t have any place to go. I feel like I have to go back, but I know that he will beat me.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed “Khadija,” 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. Women and girls said they had few places to go to escape domestic violence. The small number of shelters that take in domestic violence survivors are run by nongovernmental organizations with little bed capacity and meager resources. Only a few get any government funding, and staff from one shelter said that the funding was not enough to cover even food costs.
Domestic violence survivors like Khadija deserve much more from their government. Morocco should strengthen and adopt laws to improve protection for victims of domestic violence including shelter and other financial assistance for survivors 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 Khadija, call on Bassima Hakkaoui, Morocco’s Women and Family minister, to strengthen the bill on violence against women.