Protect Our Children: Judicial Void, Societal Hypocrisy and Call for Action in Morocco

Within the past months (or even the past years), we have been witnessing horrifying cases of pedophilia in Morocco. Yes, pedophilia is a worldwide phenomenon, with no borders. Pedophilia has no religion, nationality, race, class, or else. But in reality, what are we doing, us as Moroccan people, to protect our children?

Pedophilia might be globally widespread, however, some countries are taken extra precautions that are far from being executed by our dear Kingdom. Sex offenses against children are a serious crime, reinforced and punished by both national and international law. Several countries have imposed harsh sentences against child molesters.

Judicial Void

Nevertheless, after carefully going through the Moroccan penal code, it is no surprise to come to the conclusion that there is a huge judicial void. We still have a long way to go. The government must modify the law so that we better protect our children against all forms of violence, physical or sexual; and so that it comes in conformity with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It should be noted that according to article 486 of the Moroccan Penal Code rape is defined as “the act by which a man has sexual relations with a woman against her will, with a punishment of imprisonment going from five to ten years.” Hence, rape is limited only to heterosexual relationships and assuming that only men can be perpetrators. The same article provides that: “if the rape was committed against a minor under the age of eighteen, an incapable person, a handicapped person, a person known by his weak mental faculties, or of a pregnant woman, the penalty is imprisonment from ten to twenty years.” Once again, there is no law exclusively protecting children from physical or sexual abuse, instead, they are put together in an umbrella group with other categories of people; who just as much as children, require additional care and attention.

Meanwhile, one out of three children happens to be molested in Morocco, not much is being done to prevent those numbers from rising. According to COCASSE (Coalition Against Child Sexual Abuse), about 70 children are sexually abused every day in Morocco. What is even more terrifying is that predators are often part of the family.

While in theory Morocco has signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the practice to put it into place is null. The first collective wave of indignation goes back to 2013. Spanish pedophile Daniel Fino Galvan was pardoned by the King. As a reminder he had only served a year and a half of his 30-year sentence for raping 11 children. In fact, Morocco is often portrayed as the eldorado of child sex tourism and pedophilia, especially in the city of Marrakech.

Two years ago, Morocco has adopted the Children’s Rights Covenant of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a pact outlining the rights of the child in Islam. It has been criticized by many human rights groups claiming it undermines principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 12 of the pact supposedly guarantees sexual education: “Every child close to puberty has the right to access a healthy sexual education allowing him to distinguish the lawful from the illicit according to the vision of Islam”. Let’s face it and say that sex education programs in schools are nonexistent, which leaves us with one main sex educator: pornography.

Societal Hypocrisy 

In 2015, Morocco was ranked 5th largest consumer of pornographic content on the net in the world. In 2019, the pornographic site xHamster published statistics on its traffic recorded during the month of Ramadan in predominantly Muslim countries, Morocco included. Let’s not even talk about the recent wave of revenge porn that has occurred during this holy month, targeting mainly under aged girls. Unfortunately, pornography is not reflecting reality and only amplifies predominant sexual frustration already impregnated in our society.

While Morocco has Islam as the predominant religion, all citizens look up to their religious leaders. Except when they have sexual intercourse. We have all seen headlines about imams caught having sex. Or when a journalist was sentenced to prison for abortion and premarital sex. It is so hshouma. Not only is it taboo, but it is also punishable by law. People are more petrified at the idea of someone having consensual sex outside of marriage, than of a child getting raped. Remember back in 2012 when Amina Filali killed herself at 16? Remember that it was still legal for a rapist to marry his victim if the family agreed? The family’s honor always prevails as I have mentioned it a couple of years ago in my article Rape is Rape, Let’s Not Stay Silent.

A more recent case was Ikram. Only six and raped by a neighbor. Of course, he was set free. Until the story made the national headlines, and hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition to express anger after the court made the decision to release the pedophile. The last shocking headline is Adnane‘s, an 11-year-old who was brutally raped, killed and buried by a neighbor.

Many are saying, pedophilia is common, people just don’t talk about it because it is hshouma. They rather silence their children and temporarily hide their traumas rather than face family dishonor. A question arises though: is it a reason for us to be silent? I wish Moroccan society would be shocked by little maids or forced labor, child marriage and prostitution, pedophilia, as much as it is by homosexuality or premarital sex, which by the way, are both sanctioned by the law. How is it that loving someone of the same sex a higher offense than an adult abusing an innocent soul? How is it that having consensual premarital sex more shocking than molesting a child?

It is simply because rape culture and victim-blaming are just here to remind us what is hshouma from not, how to dress, how not to dress, where to go, where not to go, and how to be the perfect prude. Simply because in Morocco we call ourselves good Muslims, with moeurs and values, who also happen to be the first ones to judge others, how ironical?

Call for Action

It is time to protect our children. It is time to end rape culture. It is time to stop victim-blaming. When women are abused, everyone is quick to ask: What was she wearing? Why did she go out at night? But what do you have to say about children? Once again we try to find someone to blame. We blame the parents, then we blame the pedophile, we ask for the death penalty. The death penalty might kill one predator, when we know that there are many more out there it is definitly not the solution. The death penalty won’t ever solve the societal problems deeply rooted in our lovely country.

We must deconstruct what we have been conditioned to learn. That we have a voice to use. We must put an end to baseless judgments, and rather educate ourselves and those around, while having uncomfortable conversations. We must believe survivors and help them find peace.

If there is something that needs urgent change, it is the corrupted judicial system in place. Not only should we reinforce the laws but also fill the judicial void. It is time for religious leaders to speak up about such abominations as they have the most influence in our society. It is time to consider sex education as a priority to end our societal frustration.

Everything lays in education. Maybe we cannot fix the broken generations, but we can focus on the future. Teaching our children consent at an early age is a must, they should learn from us and not from porn. The moment we realize that we are all part of the problem, as much as we are part of the solution, then change will come.

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