“Bittersweet victory” for Moroccan women facing domestic violence, activists say

Moroccan women (Shutterstock)
Updated 01 March 2018

“Bittersweet victory” for Moroccan women facing domestic violence, activists say

BEIRUT: A hotly-debated new law aimed at protecting women in Morocco against domestic violence does not go far enough, said women’s rights activists who have campaigned for reform for years.
The law passed in the Muslim country earlier this month criminalizes “harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill treatment of women,” according to the women’s ministry.
But it failed to define domestic violence or explicitly outlaw marital rape said Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“While Morocco is going out of its way to pat itself on the back, they need to take far more reform to protect all women from violence,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
By criminalizing forced marriage and the expulsion of a spouse from the home, the law is a “bittersweet victory” for activists in Morocco who have been pushing for reforms for more than a decade, she added.
Sexual harassment and abuse of women is rife in Morocco where a national survey found that nearly two-thirds of women had experienced physical, psychological, sexual or economic abuse.
A video of a young woman being sexually assaulted by a gang of teenage boys on a bus in Casablanca last year sparked outrage in the country.
Saadia Wadah, a women’s rights lawyer and activist based in Casablanca said that the law is a “positive” step forward, despite its “gaps and flaws.”
In pushing through reform, Morocco follows Tunisia, which passed its own law protecting women against violence last year, but other Arab countries like Egypt, Kuwait, and Yemen have yet to do so, said Begum.
The law allows for protection orders that prohibit an accused person from contacting or approaching a victim during or after criminal prosecutions.
Stephanie Willman, co-founder of Mobilising for Rights Associates, a women’s rights group, said this was “terrible.”
“Women shouldn’t have to file criminal charges to get a protection order,” she said by phone from the capital, Rabat.
“Most women who are victims of violence in Morocco will be left unprotected because of this.”
Few women file criminal cases against abusive spouses and most are dropped because of family pressure or financial dependence on their abusers, HRW said.


Egypt to press for outside mediator in Ethiopia dam dispute

Updated 20 October 2019

Egypt to press for outside mediator in Ethiopia dam dispute

  • Egyptian officials said they had suggested the World Bank as a fourth party mediator
  • Ethiopia has denied that three-way talks are stalled, accusing Egypt of trying to sidestep the process

CAIRO: Egypt will push Ethiopia this week to agree to an external mediator to help resolve a deepening dispute over a giant hydropower dam being built on Ethiopia's Blue Nile, officials said on Sunday.
Egypt sees the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as an existential risk, fearing it will threaten scarce water supplies in Egypt and power generation at its own dam in Aswan.
Cairo says it has exhausted efforts to reach an agreement on the conditions for operating GERD and filling the reservoir behind it, after years of three-party talks with Ethiopia and Sudan.
Ethiopia has denied that three-way talks are stalled, accusing Egypt of trying to sidestep the process.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to raise the demand for a mediator when he meets Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during a Russian-African summit in Russia this week.
"We're hoping this meeting might produce an agreement on the participation of a fourth party," an Egyptian foreign ministry official told journalists at a briefing. "We're hopeful to reach a formula in the next few weeks."
Egyptian officials said they had suggested the World Bank as a fourth party mediator, but were also open to the role being filled by a country with technical experience on water sharing issues such as the United States, or the European Union.
Recent proposals put forward by Egypt for a flexible reservoir-filling process and a guaranteed annual flow of 40 billion cubic metres were rejected by Ethiopia.
The latest rounds of talks in Cairo and Khartoum over the past two months ended in acrimony. "The gap is getting wider," the Egyptian foreign ministry official said.
Egypt draws almost all of its fresh water supplies from the Nile, and is faced with worsening water scarcity for its population of nearly 100 million. It says it is working to reduce the amount of water used in agriculture.
Hydrologists consider a country to be facing water scarcity if supplies drop below 1,000 cubic metres per person per year.
Egypt currently has around 570 cubic metres per person per year, a figure that is expected to drop to 500 cubic metres by 2025, without taking into account any reduction in supply caused by GERD, Egyptian officials said.
Ethiopia is expected to start filling the GERD reservoir next year.