Justice for Amina – #RIPAmina
On March 10th a young woman in Morocco committed suicide. This in and of itself is sad however, Amina Filali was sixteen years old, a victim of rape and underage marriage, and married by her fathers’ will to her rapist. After her death there was a global outcry against what happened. There also were reports that this man was not a stranger but that the two had had an ongoing relationship. Sadly, the truth will never be known because Amina can no longer speak for herself.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding Amina’s nuptials, this case has brought to light a portion of Moroccan legal code in dire need of reform. Article 475 of the Moroccan legal code offers the rapist a way to escape punishment if he marries his victim. In traditional Middle Eastern and North African societies the notion of family honor is so strong that this option is seen as a way to protect the honor of a family and woman if she was raped. There is a well founded fear in Morocco that a woman who is raped will not be able to find a husband because she is no longer a virgin (many men will not marry a woman who is not a virgin). Marriage in Islam cannot be coerced; both partners must agree but under this article the father of a girl who is a minor and was raped can force the marriage to save the families honor.
Amina was married to her rapist by her fathers’ will. Accounts state that she was then beaten by her husband for the five months of their marriage and begged her family to take her back. When nothing worked, she swallowed rat poison. Her “husband” was so angry he dragged her through the street by her hair to the hospital. After three days (!) in the hospital she passed away. To make this story even worse, the Moroccan Justice Ministry came out in its original report to the press that, “Amina , a mere fifteen year old girl, had offered her virginity to the rapist with her full consent.” (Morocco World News) Unlike the US, there is no statutory rape statue in Moroccan law.
This story is one example of how rape is addressed in societies. It’s hard for many of us to look at this issue without a cultural lens. But rape is considered a shame on women in our own society. In the US it is estimated only about 6% of rape cases end in a conviction and the arrest rate sits painfully low at 25%. Many victims fear reprisal from their attacker and they also know the humiliation that they will face. As a society we view rape far too often as the woman’s fault. She was wearing alluring clothing, she was drinking, she was sexually active –she asked for it. Few questions if any are asked of the rapists motives.
I see Amina’s story as a wake-up call for everyone. We must take a long look at our own attitudes and behavior. Too often rape is viewed solely as sexual gratification on the part of the male perpetrator. When in reality it is more about power and control. It doesn’t matter what society or culture we are living in we must raise our children, and especially our boys to know that dominating a relationship is not healthy. This is especially true in a patriarchic society such as Morocco. We also must remove the notion that men rape because of the behavior of women. Not only does it put an unrealistic burden on women it makes men out to be nothing but beings that lack self-control. Men are fully capable of understanding right and wrong. They must be held to this standard.
There are thousands of Amina’s around the world suffering the scars of rape. We owe it to our daughters and sons to teach them the dynamics of power, control, healthy relationships, boundaries and sexuality. This is an uncomfortable topic for anyone, especially when teaching our children, but it is imperative. We can not ignore reality and allow them to learn these lessons from the outside lest they be the wrong messages. #RIPAmina
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