Morocco was recently in the news for a paedophile scandal which rocked the nation, drawing attention from both local and international press, with at least one leading figure of the press probing deeper into the case and claiming that paedophilia, in general, is a bigger problem than many might imagine.
Renowned Moroccan journalist, Muhammad Mamouni Alawi, writing for the Arabic newspaper Al Arab, sheds light on the issue of paedophilia in Morocco. His article comes a few days after the crime of sexual abuse of children by a sports coach in a camp in the city of Al-Jadida.
He raises the question, which started a wide debate on the topic of responsibility and “whether it should be placed on the parents and how much they should be to blame for putting their child in a vulnerable or unsafe situation, in which they experience or are put at risk of falling prey to perpetrators.”
He also highlighted just how prevalent he believes the phenomenon of grooming and child rape and sexual abuse is a far bigger problem than how it appears at face value in Morocco. He writes that “these crimes are on the rise, and weigh heavily on Moroccan families.”
He comments on the two attitudes taken by the public, where, on the one hand, there are those taking the stance, that the family is to blame for abandoning its responsibility of educating and raising their children until they grow into adults. While, on the other hand, there are those who put the full responsibility on specialised institutions in their dealings with all aspects of child protection.
Reporting on authority responses, he writes that the National Observatory for the Education and Training System has issued a statement, which sets out for authorities to employ a “holistic approach which includes educational legal psychological and media dimensions in its handling of child victims.”
He also notes that the Minister of Justice, Abdel Latif Wehbe, has “promised to impose the most severe penalties under a new criminal law against child rapists”.
Speaking to Omar Al-Sharqawi, a professor of public law, at the Faculty of Law, in Mohammedia, he confirmed that he believes that the family does bear a large part of the responsibility.
Al-Sharqawi told Arab Weekly, that the mistake that is made by some parents is their inappropriate understanding of their role of guarding the children, as they only whittled down to providing shelter food and clothes to their children, and didn’t take into account the importance of protection and education in a child’s life.
What’s more, Al-Sharqawi believes that, while important, “legislation in protecting minors from all forms of exploitation is insufficient and cannot substitute for the protection which family members provide for each other.”
Alawi also highlights findings made in a report by the Supreme Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research, which found that students who attend and live in boarding schools are at heightened risk of being exposed to violence, noting that “some of the students spend months at a time in these institutions without family visitations despite sometimes being very young.” Furthermore, the report emphasises the “danger of violence in the school environment as well as the risk that students in these institutions Will be victims of violence and rape, even sometimes by educational staff.”
The council further instigated that the “students are at higher risk, as a result of being at distance from the family environment as well as fragile economic and social situations.”
Alawi concludes that the National Authority for the Protection of Public Funds and Transparency in Morocco, emphasises how important it is to launch campaigns to educate society, parents, teachers and children in identifying and reporting any possible case of abuse. As well as to “implement transparent mechanisms of reporting, which allow parents or any other witness to report any suspicious or harmful behaviour without fear of punishment.”