RABAT — A minister in Morocco's Islamist government on Thursday called for a change to a law allowing a rapist to marry his victim after a 16-year-old teenager forced into such a union committed suicide.
Bassima Hakkaoui, Minister for Women and Families and the only woman in the cabinet, called for a debate to reform the law, in comments to state television channel 2M.
Her predecessor in the post Nouzha Skalli also declared herself shocked by the affair and called for the law to be changed.
Amina al-Filali, 16, drank rat poison last week in Larache, near Tangiers in the north, after being forced to marry the man who raped her.
He had sought to escape prison by invoking an article of the penal code that authorises the rapist to marry to escape prosecution.
This is something to which the families of such victims often agree because the loss of a woman's virginity outside of marriage is considered a dishonour to her family.
Filali's funeral took place Sunday in the northern town of Larache.
On Thursday, 300 protesters staged a sit-in outside the local court that had approved the marriage, a demonstration organised by Morocco's Democratic League for Women's Rights.
It was the League that publicised Filalai's suicide as part of its campaign against the law.
On Wednesday the League's president Fouzia Assouli condemned the relevant article of the law, saying that while it ostensibly defended family values it did not uphold the rights of women.
"The law treats the raped minor like a criminal even if she was the victim of violence," Skalli told 2M television during an extended programme on the affair.
"We have to reform the criminal code to adapt to the new constitution, which forbids violence against women and ensures the equality of the sexes."
The affair has also provoked an explosion of outrage in the news media and on the Internet. Activists have set up an online petition calling for the law to be changed, which within hours attracted hundreds of signatures.
Under Moroccan law, rape is punishable by five to 10 years in prison -- or between 10 and 20 years if the victim is a minor.
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