The Moroccan government plans to change Article 475 of the Moroccan Penal Code [text, French], which allows rapists to avoid charges if they marry their victims, Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid announced Tuesday. This practice is encouraged in countries such as Morocco and India, where the loss of a woman's virginity out of wedlock brings shame upon the family. Article 475, translated from French, reads, "When a minor removed or diverted married her captor, the latter can not be prosecuted on the complaint of persons entitled to apply for annulment of marriage and can not be sentenced until after the cancellation of marriage has been pronounced." Women's rights activists welcomed the news but claimed it is only the first step in reforming the penal code to prevent discrimination and violence against women.
Tuesday's announcement takes place nearly a year after 16-year-old Amina al-Filali committed suicide [AFP report] after she was forced to marry her alleged rapist. Soon after, Protesters in Morocco rallied to call for the reform [JURIST report] of Article 475. In July 2011 Moroccan voters overwhelmingly approved a revised version of the constitution [JURIST report], highlighted by fewer powers reserved for their king. The constitutional revisions were a product of a reform process announced [JURIST report] last April following peaceful demonstrations [JURIST reports] demanding democratic reforms as part of the wider protests in the Middle East and North Africa [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive].