“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.


Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

Updated 22 sec ago

Iraqi protesters block commercial ports, split capital

  • Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs shut key bridges in Baghdad
  • The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges connect both sides of the city by passing over the river

BAGHDAD: Anti-government protesters blocked access to a second major commercial port in southern Iraq on Tuesday, as bridge closures effectively split the capital in half, causing citizens to rely on boats for transport to reach the other side of the city.
Since anti-government protests began Oct. 1, at least 320 people have been killed and thousands wounded in Baghdad and the mostly Shiite southern provinces. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the tens of thousands over what they say is widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, despite the country’s oil wealth.
Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun guns to repel protesters, tactics that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday would be punished with sanctions.
“We will not stand idle while the corrupt officials make the Iraqi people suffer. Today, I am affirming the United States will use our legal authorities to sanction corrupt individuals that are stealing Iraqis’ wealth and those killing and wounding peaceful protesters,” he said in remarks to reporters in Washington.
“Like the Iraqi people taking to the streets today, our sanctions will not discriminate between religious sect or ethnicity,” he added. “They will simply target those who do wrong to the Iraqi people, no matter who they are.”
Over a dozen protesters blocked the main entrance to Khor Al-Zubair port, halting trade activity as oil tankers and other trucks carrying goods were unable to enter or exit. The port imports commercial goods and materials as well as refined oil products.
Crude from Qayara oil field in Ninewa province, in northern Iraq, is also exported from the port.
Khor Al-Zubair is the second largest port in the country. Protesters had burned tires and cut access to the main Gulf commercial port in Umm Qasr on Monday and continued to block roads Tuesday.
Iraqi civilians are increasingly relying on boats to ferry them across the Tigris River as ongoing standoffs between demonstrators and Iraqi security forces on three key bridges has shut main thoroughfares connecting east and west Baghdad.
The Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar bridges, which have been partially occupied by protesters following days of deadly clashes, connect both sides of the city by passing over the Tigris River. The blockages have left Iraqis who must make the daily commute for work, school and other day-to-day activities with no choice but to rely on river boats.
“After the bridges were cut, all the pressure is on us here,” said Hasan Lilo, a boat owner in the capital. “We offer a reasonable transportation means that helps the people.”