Rape and Domestic Violence: The law punishes men convicted of rape with prison terms of five to 10 years; when the conviction involves a minor, the prison sentence ranges from 10 to 20 years. Spousal rape is not a crime. A sexual assault conviction may result in a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of 15,000 dirhams ($1,510). Police were slow to act in domestic violence cases, and the government generally did not enforce the law. Victims did not report the vast majority of sexual assaults to police due to social pressure, which would most likely hold the victim responsible. Police selectively investigated cases; among the minority brought to trial, successful prosecutions were rare.
Domestic violence was widespread. Statistics on rape or sexual assault were unreliable due to underreporting; no survey on the subject has been conducted since 2009. A Bureau of Statistics 2013 planning publication, The Moroccan Woman, by the Numbers, revealed that 63 percent of women reported suffering an act of violence in the preceding year, although the study based these figures on the 2009 survey. Various domestic advocacy groups, such as the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, estimated that husbands perpetrated eight of 10 cases of violence against women. Government sources stated that the Royal Gendarmerie dealt with 9,469 instances of violence against women in 2014, of which 598 were committed by domestic partners; the numbers were 3,055 cases of violence against women during the year, with 349 of those involving domestic partners, respectively. Overall, husbands committed 56 percent of reported cases of violence against women.
An amendment to the family code disallows rapists’ exoneration through marriage to their victims. Prior to 2014, rapists could avoid punishment by marrying the victim. Nonetheless, numerous articles of the penal code pertaining to rape perpetuate unequal treatment for women and provide insufficient protection, despite 2009 revisions to the family law.
The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence against women, but the general prohibitions of the criminal code address such violence. By law high-level misdemeanors occur when a victim suffers injuries that result in 20 days of disability leave from work. Low-level misdemeanors occur when victims suffer disability for less than 20 days. According to NGOs the courts rarely prosecuted perpetrators of low-level misdemeanors. Police generally treated domestic violence as a social rather than a criminal matter. Statistics provided by the government indicated that it provided direct support to 50 counseling centers for female victims of violence as part of a broader effort to support projects benefitting women in society. The government also reported that in 2014 it had dedicated more than 11 million dirhams ($1.1 million) to outreach programs to women regarding their rights.
Physical abuse was legal grounds for divorce, although few women reported such abuse to authorities. Domestic violence mediation generally occurred within the family. Women choosing legal action generally preferred pursuing divorce in family courts rather than criminal prosecutions.
The government operated hotlines for victims of domestic violence. A small number of groups, such as the Anaruz Network and the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, were also available to provide assistance and guidance to victims. Counseling centers existed exclusively in urban areas. Services for victims of violence in rural areas were generally limited to those provided by local police. Women’s shelters were not government funded. A few NGOs made efforts to provide shelter for victims of domestic abuse. There were reports, however, that these shelters were not accessible to persons with disabilities. Courts had “victims of abuse cells” that brought together prosecutors, lawyers, judges, women’s NGO representatives, and hospital personnel to review domestic and child abuse cases to provide for the best interests of women or children according to proper procedure.
Many domestic NGOs worked to advance women’s rights and promote women’s issues. Among these were the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women, the Union for Women’s Action, the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, and the Moroccan Association for Women’s Rights. All advocated enhanced political and civil rights for women. NGOs also promoted literacy and taught women basic hygiene, family planning, and childcare.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment in the workplace is criminal only when it is an abuse of authority by a superior, as stipulated by the penal code. Violations are punishable by one to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 dirhams ($503 to $5, 025). Authorities did not effectively enforce laws against sexual harassment. According to the government, although the law allows victims to sue employers, only a few did so. Most feared losing their job as a result or worried about proving the charge. NGOs reported widespread sexual harassment contributed to the low rate of female participation in the labor force, although the total number of violent acts was extremely low and likely not representative of the real number of incidents in the country. Statistics were not clear on the percentage of women in the workforce; however, figures from the Civil Service Ministry stated that women held 29 percent of official posts in the country, compared with 16 percent in 2009.
Reproductive Rights: Individuals and couples have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Authorities generally did not discriminate against women in accessing sexual and reproductive health care, including for sexually transmitted infections. Contraception is legal, and most forms were widely available. Skilled health attendance at delivery and postpartum care were available for women who could afford it, with approximately 74 percent of overall births attended by skilled health personnel. In May the government passed a law authorizing abortion in cases of rape, incest, or severe deformation, expanding existing legislation that allowed abortion in case of danger to the life of the mother.
The most recent UN statistics showed there were approximately 120 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the country in 2013 and that 58 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception in 2014. The major factors influencing maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence rates were female illiteracy, lack of knowledge about availability of services, cost of services, social pressure against contraceptive use, and limited availability of transportation to health centers and hospitals for those in rural areas.
Discrimination: The constitution provides women equal rights in civil, political, economic, cultural, and environmental affairs. The law does not require equal pay for equal work.
Numerous problems related to discrimination against women remained. A Muslim woman’s share of an inheritance, determined by sharia (Islamic law), varies depending on circumstances, but it is less than that of a man. Under sharia daughters receive half of what their brothers receive. If a woman is the only child, she receives half, and relatives receive the other half. A sole male heir would receive the entire estate. The 2004 reform of the family code did not change inheritance laws, which the constitution does not specifically address. In its October report on the state of women’s rights, the CNDH called for reform of the country’s inheritance laws to provide for legal equality in inheritance.
According to the law, women are entitled to a one-third share of inherited property. While ministry decrees carry the force of law, implementation met considerable resistance from men in certain areas of the country. Despite lobbying by women’s NGOs, enforcement of these property laws remained inconsistent. In October the CNDH issued a report citing continued widespread gender inequality and advocating reforms in line with the constitution, including creation of an independent and empowered Authority for Gender Parity and Fighting All Forms of Discrimination, as well as changes to the family code, including equal inheritance rights for women. The Ministry of Interior further pressed for local enforcement of women’s entitlement to collective land rights. The government followed with training for local authorities on the implementation of the land allocation process. Women’s NGOs continued to press the government to codify women’s rights in formal legislation. During the year the CNDH published a report criticizing the state of women’s rights in the country. The report made a number of recommendations, including that the government reform the system of inheritance away from religious-based rules and ensure equality of men and women.
The family code places the family under the joint responsibility of both spouses, makes divorce available by mutual consent, and places legal limits on polygamy. Implementation of family law reforms remained a problem. The judiciary lacked willingness to enforce them, as many judges did not agree with their provisions. Corruption among working-level court clerks and lack of knowledge about its provisions among lawyers were also obstacles to enforcement of the law. Widespread female illiteracy also limited women’s ability to navigate the legal system. The penal code criminalizes “knowingly hiding or subverting the search for a married woman who is evading the authority to which she is legally subject.” The authorities used this section to return women involuntarily to abusive homes.
There were few legal obstacles to women’s participation in business and other economic activities. According to some entrepreneurs and NGOs, however, women had difficulty accessing credit and owning and managing businesses.
The government led some efforts to improve the status of women in the workplace, most notably the constitutional mandate for the creation of an Authority for Gender Parity and Fighting All Forms of Discrimination, an institution that was being developed jointly between the parliament and the CNDH but remained unimplemented at year’s end. The constitution provides for the equal status of women in the realms of civics, politics, economics, social relations, culture, and the environment.
Rural women faced restrictions on education and employment opportunities for social and cultural reasons. Trade unions did not have women represented in leadership positions.