Morocco: New Online Database Provides Means for Judicial Consistency in Enforcing Women's Rights

A new website—called Marsadnissa, or Women’s Observatory—aims to facilitate greater consistency across the Moroccan judiciary by providing lawyers and judges with access to an online collection of judicial decisions relating to women’s rights.

Recently, rape law reform in Morocco has been a primary focus for many international human rights advocacy groups, including Global Rights—a nongovernmental organization whose mission is to provide women with greater access to justice. However, advocates are aware that even if the legislature acts to amend current rape laws, a strongly supportive judiciary is essential to ensure that such changes are consistently enforced.

For example, while Moroccan law sets 18 as the minimum age requirement for marriage, conservative judges often find ways to grant special dispensations to defeat that limitation. In conjunction with Article 475—a law which currently allows abrogation of a statutory rape charge if the accused marries the victim—there is a strong incentive for a man accused of statutory rape to convince a judge to overrule the age requirement for marriage so the man can marry the victim, thereby escaping from criminal liability. Consequently, a statutorily-enacted minimum age requirement requires consistent judicial enforcement in order to prevent the continually high rate of forced and child marriage in Morocco.

Currently, reform may be imminent at the legislative level, as the Justice Ministry announced in January that it would support Parliament in striking down Article 475. Yet, advocates recognize that this is only the first step towards actual implementation of these reforms. “We’d like to see greater consistency in court decisions and greater protection of women’s rights by the judiciary,” says Stephanie Willman Bordat—Global Rights Director for the Maghreb region of North Africa.

Through its growing collection of easily accessible judicial decisions from across the country, Marsadnissa represents a significant step towards creating the systemic framework necessary to achieve this consistency.  

Compiled from: Aida Alami, “Morocco Slow to Enforce Women’s Rights,” New York Times (April 10, 2013).