Within the past week, I have read outrageous news concerning my home country Morocco. I’m angry, I’m mad, I’m sad, and way too many emotions at once. So here is what I’m going to do. I’m going to canalize my energy on writing my feelings instead of leaving them inside.
I come from a misogynistic and patriarchal society. Where men and women are not considered equal. Not in the law, not the mentality and not in everyday life. Gender inequality is a universal issue I will admit it. In some places, sexism is radically rooted in customs, where the hope of change fades away a bit more each time.
I come from a country where a bit more than four years ago, a rapist was set free if the family’s victim agreed on an arranged marriage. Basically, forcing a rape victim to spend the rest of her life with her abuser just for the family’s honor. Fortunately, things change as feminist associations and civil society reacted following Amina Filali’s suicide.
I come from a country where rape is taboo, where women provoke it and where men are excused for their actions. After all, the honor of the family prevails. Who would want a woman if she is not a virgin anymore? No one. Some consider that it doesn’t even fit the definition of rape if she wasn’t a virgin in the first place.
I come from a country where women bash each other instead of supporting one another. Before going any further, I think that we might define two key terms: rape and consent. Both terms are intimately connected. Rape is defined as « forcing another person to have sexual intercourse with the offender against their will ». Consent is the « permission for something to happen or agreement to do something ».
Let’s talk about the past week. Two major events occurred. I want to put light on these events so the world can see that Morocco needs radical change! I have hope.
First, little Khadija, 17-year-old. For two months, she was kidnapped, tortured, abused by a group of ten or more men. They also inflicted horrible tattoos all over her body. Burned her with cigarettes. Khadija had to go on her own to the police authorities. Her entourage advised her not to do so. Because in Morocco, getting raped is a curse and you become worthless. Her young age didn’t stop her from doing the right thing. She was brave enough to raise her voice and seek justice. She had to do it alone, with no support.
Second, recidivism from famous Arab idol Saad Lamjarred. A handsome, famous and powerful man. Saad has been convicted of rape and sexual abuse crimes starting 2010 in the U.S. The charges were dropped. It didn’t stop there. Yesterday, Saad Lamjarred was arrested in France. The singer has also been indicted for rape in April 2015 after the complaint of a young French-Moroccan claiming to have been abused and beaten. On the eve of a concert, he was to give in October 2017, a 20-year-old woman had lodged a complaint claiming that she had been attacked a few hours earlier by the singer in his hotel room. Defended by Dupond-Moretti and Jean-Marc Fedida, Saad Lamjarred was released in April 2017, under an electronic bracelet. He also received the support of our King.
What disgusts me the most is to see so many young Moroccan women defending rapists. I have read all types of comments and received unbelievable messages. Women are making up excuses and assuming that it was the victims’ fault. « She was drunk », « She followed him », « She was at a nightclub », « She’s an attention seeker ». Really? This is how you perceive someone who’s been through rape and is trying to make the right thing? So what all of them are making this up just to ruin their abuser’s life? They’re probably bored and couldn’t wait to get so much attention by disclosing a traumatic personal experience.
Let’s get the record straight. RAPE IS RAPE AND RAPE IS NOT OK. There is nothing more important than consent. Even if any of the victims wanted it at first, even if she was naked and then changed her mind, there is no excuse for rape. The circumstances don’t matter. A woman is not supposed to assume the worst from anyone. What are we supposed to do? Stay home and fear all interactions with the opposite sex? What about little Khadija, she was supposed to stay home? Women are victims of rape and gender-based violence on a daily basis. Sometimes even from their partners, family members or acquaintances. Just because a woman trusted someone she shouldn’t have doesn’t mean she should remain silent.
As women, we should empower each other. Take an example and look at the #metoo movement. Many women were afraid to speak up because of typical sexist reactions. Because they were scared that no one would believe them. Harvey Weinstein’s case illustrates how a powerful and successful man thought he could get away with anything. He had more than 100 victims. Same for Lary Nassar. But there is nothing stronger than women together. Once a victim decides to take action, it’s an instant domino effect.
Let’s be optimistic and hope to change mentalities. I have hope because I also received many messages from women punishing these actions and actually defending their « sisters ». I hope that people will realize that we should teach men not to rape instead of teaching women not to be raped. Our body, our choice.