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Morocco Criminalizes Sexual Violence, Including Forced Marriage

A law drafted five years ago in Morocco criminalizing sexual violence, including forced marriage, marital rape and harassment in public spaces, has come into force. The legislative initiative was launched after a government survey found that 63 percent of Moroccan women aged 18-65 have been abused, and following criticism by rights groups over the absence in the country of a precise legal definition of domestic violence. Human Rights Watch described the law as a step forward, but qualified that it contains “major gaps and flaws that leave women at risk of domestic violence, including a lack of provisions to finance the reforms.” Government officials, meanwhile, contended that no law is perfect and that elements of it can be changed or improved in the future. The law takes effect following a nationwide uproar last month over the rape, torture and kidnapping of a teenage girl named as Khadija. Morocco has in the past been plagued by sexual violence, with parliament only in 2014 nixing a law that allowed the rapists of underage girls to avoid prosecution by marrying their victims.

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