Following the suicide of Amina al-Filali in Morocco, Our Other Sisters spoke to Manar, a feminist living in Rabat, Morocco. Manar is 25 years old, and grew up in Rabat, where she has been working as a software engineer for almost two years.
Manar tells us that being a feminist in Morocco is often perceived as ‘caricatural’ by both men and women.
“The average Moroccan thinks a feminist is a woman who is ‘manly,’ who lacks femininity [and] who’s not ‘marrying material’ since she won’t be submissive.”
Being a strong and opinionated woman often causes people to say: “’She needs a man to hold her leash’ or ‘She didn’t find a man to control her.’”
Manar explains that the emerging feminist movement in Morocco has involved long struggles.
She describes the climax of the movement in the early 21st century, “when the parliament was discussing a progressive law that would effectively establish gender equality.”
After years of “fierce debate” a consensus was reached which culminated in the adoption of the “family code or Mudawana in 2004.”
The updated code includes the following provisions: both spouses share responsibility for their family; women have the right to divorce their husbands; daughters can inherit from their parents; women of age are no longer required to have a marital tutor and cannot be married against their will.
“The Tree that hides the forest”
In discussion about the recent suicide of Amina al-Filali, a 16-year-old Moroccan girl who was forcibly married to the man who raped her, in order that he was exonerated of all blame for the crime, Manar tells us that in her opinion, “what happened to Amina is just the tree that hides the forest.”
“The real question we should ask ourselves is, ‘what is our stand on rape?’”
Manar tells us that people have little, if any sympathy for victims of rape, and often blame the victim, which is often true of overriding attitudes to rape victims universally.
“They find thousands of reasons to blame the victim and justify they predator’s crime” by saying “‘she shouldn’t have dressed that way; she sholdn’t have said this or done that; she shouldn’t have gone out of [her] home at this hour or that.’”
Following Amina’s suicide, one of the main concerns has been to address the existence of the archaic law, which allowed her rapist to marry her and absolve himself.
“Mentalities need to change. The law will follow”
“To me, the people make the law, not the opposite.”
Manar gives an example of one of the provisions detailed in the 2004 Mudawana reforms: the law which prohibits the marriage of people under the age of 18.
“The law is adopted, but is it applied? People still get married before they turn 18; exemptions are still made, because people perceive the law as a ban to their freedom.”
Returning to the archaic law which permitted Amina’s rapist to marry her, Manar tells us: “in this particular case, yes, the law should be repealed. A rapist should be judged and sentenced no matter what.”
This brings us onto another issue: virginity.
“The victim, on top of the deep psychological scars she has to put up with, thinks to herself that now she is not a virgin, no one [will] marry her.”
Manar draws particular attention to women who are victims of rape, who believe that getting married immediately after the incident may be the “best option…to wipe away the stigma and get as close as possible to a ‘normal’ life.”
There is a general consensus which lends itself to pressure upon women that being divorced is still less shocking than being an unmarried woman who is no longer a virgin.
“Like I said, mentalities need to be changed. Meanwhile, many other ‘Aminas’ will kill themselves, whether by marrying their rapist, committing suicide, or living in shame.”
“Respect and Equality”
A final point about the global feminism movement, Manar believes that “women everywhere advocate for the same rights.”
In her opinion, “there are some differences, depending on religion and culture, but the basis is the same: respect and equality.”