The Advocates for Human Rights and Moroccan NGOs Draft Law on Violence against Women in Morocco

Minneapolis (March 18, 2010) – The Advocates for Human Rights, Moroccan NGOs from across the country, and host Global Rights met in Errachidia, Morocco from March 8-12 to draft a national law on violence against women. If passed, the law would be the first comprehensive violence against women act in the Arab world that criminalizes domestic violence and sexual assault and provides for an order for protection remedy for victims.

 

Cheryl Thomas, Director of the Women’s Human Rights Program, represented The Advocates. Reporting from Morocco, Ms. Thomas said, “Here, as in so many parts of the world, there is almost absolute impunity for violence against women. There is simply no meaningful legal protection for women who are brutally assaulted – particularly when the abuser is the victim’s husband or partner. Women in this country have decided that it is time for that to change.”

 

Throughout the week-long workshop, representatives of grassroots-level NGOs and local professionals from the justice, health, education and law enforcement sectors in Morocco participated in working sessions with the technical assistance of The Advocates and other international and Moroccan experts on legal reform, violence against women, and human rights.

 

“For many years the government has made declarations that a bill on violence against women is imminent, but so far we have not seen any text and there is a lack of information from the relevant authorities on where we are in the legislative process.  For this reason, as members of civil society we decided to take charge and draft this text ourselves,” explained Halima Oulami of Association el Amane pour le développement de la femme in Marrakech.

 

“Women in the communities where we work are impatient to finally have a law that will prevent violence, protect them, and punish violent offenders,” added Mariam Zemouri of Association Tawaza pour le plaidoyer de la femme in Martil.

 

The workshop consolidated the work completed by local “Thematic Working Groups” organized by NGOs in various regions of Morocco. These Thematic Working Groups held 132 meetings in 15 cities, towns and villages across the country, and 318 local professionals and authorities concerned with violence against women participated.

 

The Thematic Working Groups identified the obstacles and challenges they face in their daily work involving cases of violence against women. They also elaborated a list of sector-specific proposals and suggestions for concrete legal reform. These recommendations serve as the basis for the text being drafted by the workshop participants this week.

 

“We wanted to have a large participation geographically as well as by sector among the diverse professionals and authorities in the development of the content of this law in order to have a law that will benefit from their experience and that was developed in consultation with them, in order to ensure their active role in the application and implementation of the future legislation,” explained Khadija Oudra of Association Amal pour la femme et le développement in El Hajeb.

 

“Once finalized, our proposed law – which will include both penal and civil provisions – will be distributed to members of Parliament and government officials in order to contribute to the development of a bill and to enhance the debates during the amendment and promulgation process, and it will be based on the realities of women’s lives,” declared Zahira Bouchait of Association Tafoukt Souss pour le développement de la femme in Agadir.

 

The Advocates’ Cheryl Thomas tells the story of one young participant in the workshop: “I watched as this advocate relentlessly challenged a law professor. He was resisting adding the critically-important emergency order for protection remedy to the law. The advocate would not back down. She recited story after story of women who were injured or killed because they could not get protection from the legal system. She demanded to know, “Where is the protection in Morocco for a woman’s human right to be free from violence?” The advocate prevailed, and the right to an emergency ex parte order for protection in cases of imminent danger (like we have in the United States) was written into the draft law. These small victories add up to protect millions of women and send a new and powerful message that violence against women will no longer be tolerated.”

 

The Advocates has been working in Morocco since 2008 with Global Rights and Moroccan NGO partners to promote a law on violence against women. The Advocates has conducted trainings on best practices in legislation to combat violence against women and on legislative advocacy skills.