A child rape case, involving three men, is causing a storm in Morocco, not so much for its heinous details, but more for the justice system which is intending to give the accused incredibly lenient sentences. On March 20th, three men were given two year prison sentences (two of which with six months suspended) for the repeated rape of an 11 year old girl in the northern town of Tiflet.
The horrific ordeal that “Sanae” had to ordeal happened two years ago and very nearly was never revealed, if it weren’t for the birth of her child nine months later.
Her story is a tragic one of poverty as she was left in the house alone each Wednesday while her father went to a local market. She was repeatedly raped initially by a young 20 year old man, but then two others on other Wednesdays – one man who brought with him his niece who witnessed the violation. One commentator has even speculated that the “niece” is a child rape victim herself.
On March 2022, Sanae gave birth to a baby boy with no idea, at the time, who was the father.
“Who are we if we are to accept that paedophiles do not pay for their crime if we tolerate that a twelve year old child bears alone the weight of a patriarchy that relieves men of their responsibility for their paternity and punishes the children of these fathers?” asks the Moroccan historian Yasmine Chami.
The Rabat appeal court will hear their case on April 13th. Many Moroccans are hoping that the justice minister himself will intervene and make sure a more suitable sentence is handed down as he has indicated that new, tougher sentences are being introduced in a new penal code.
The case may well though breath new life into a debate which recently flared: legal abortion. Currently there are over 200,000 back street abortions performed each year in Morocco and a recent case of “Merium” – a 14 year old girl who died – sparked debate in Morocco which centred on legalising abortion in the cases of rape.