A protest is planned tomorrow in Morocco following the death of 16-year-old Amina Filali.
The Moroccan teen drank rat poison after being pressured into marrying the man who raped her. Her death has inspired a global internet campaign that exposes the Moroccan government’s part in the plight of women and girls like Filali. A petition to reform Moroccan law and protect victims of rape is circulating. Under the hashtag #RIPAmina, people all over the world are raising awareness for women’s rights in North Africa.
Houda Chaloun is one of the organizers of the campaign. She says the campaign started when she and some of her friends were trying to decide what they could do to shed light on the causes of Filali’s death.
“For everyone in Morocco it’s a big shock,” she said. “My friends and I wanted to do something to change the law. It started very quickly.”
The law Chaloun mentioned dictates that rapists in Morocco can avoid prison if their victim becomes their wife. According to Al Jazeera, Filali’s father said that court officials told his family that Filali should marry her rapist.
Chaloun maintains that part of the issue with Moroccan law is that there are few women who are making decisions in government. Only one woman holds a ministerial position in Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane’s cabinet, Bassima Hakkaoui, the Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family, and Social Development.
“The justice system in Morocco needs to be reformed,” Chaloun continued.
But the campaign does not stop there.
“We want to tell people that we need to talk to our own family and friends,” Chaloun said. “Changing the law is not the end at all. The youth need to step up and change our families, change our behavior.”
Chaloun told Tunisia Live that women in Morocco are “in a position of guilt” in the case of rapes. It is unacceptable for a woman to lose her virginity by any means, even force. If she does, Chaloun said, her family wants as little noise made about it as possible, which is why the marriage option is available- to prevent scandal and shame to the family name.
In Tunisia, a country long hailed as one of the most progressive Arab states in terms of women’s rights, bloggers and activists have been tweeting #RIPAmina and participating in the global awareness campaign. Tunisian blogger “tounsiahourra” tweeted Amina’s story to her almost 30, 000 followers. Moroccan blogger Mehdi B. Idrissi wrote a post comparing Filali with Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian who set himself on fire and is credited as being the catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution.
Despite many decades of legislation protecting the rights of women in Tunisia, Ahlem Belhadj, the President of the Tunisian Association for Democratic Women, said that the fight for women’s rights in Tunisia is an ongoing struggle. In a recent interview with Tunisia Live, she explained how the uneven distribution of power in Tunisian families leads to the abuse of women.
“We work in domestic violence…and it concerns a lot of women. It is not acceptable and not comprehensible that we accept in Tunisia today one woman out of two is subject to domestic violence,” Belhadj said.
Chaloun says that more cooperation is needed between North African nations to improve women’s rights in the area.
“We’re all in the same situation. If I have one message to the women in Tunisia, it is that we need to work hand in hand and we need to have more open dialogue.”