MOROCCO: Ministry of Justice denies culpability after young bride suicide

Rachid Khouya – WNN Opinion

Moroccan young bride - Amina Fillali funeral
Relatives mourn at the funeral of Amina Filali after she committed suicide. Filali was forced to marry her rapist following a court decision in Morocco. She told her mother she was being continually abused but received no help. Women in Morocco have been gathering in large protests since Filali's death to let the Moroccan government know that they want the laws changed. Image:ZIARE

(WNN/MWN): Smara, MOROCCO: Morocco’s Ministry of Justice has finally issued a statement regarding the controversy surrounding the tragic suicide of rape victim Amina Filali. According to the Ministry, the judge did not violate any court procedure when he issued a ruling that forced Amina to marry her rapist and tormentor. Apparently, Amina appeared before the judge on four separate occasions where she had ample opportunity to voice her refusal against the shameful marital arrangement agreed upon by her parents and her rapist. More troubling was the Ministry’s claim, in its initial report to the press, that Amina, a mere fifteen year old girl, had offered her virginity to the rapist with her full consent.

The Ministry’s statement about Amina’s consent to intercourse is bold face lie offered as a desperate attempt to save face amidst growing national and global criticism. How can the Ministry argue that a fifteen year old has the ability to form proper consent to engage in sexual intercourse with an adult? Assuming that Amina had the mental capability to consent to intercourse, she is still a minor according to Morocco’s penal code. If Moroccan law categorizes Amina as a minor, then any adult who engages in sexual intercourse with her is guilty of a criminal offense under Morocco‘s penal code. Moreover, even if Amina’s rapist could not tell that she is a minor, or even if he were not familiar with Morocco’s penal code, he still does not evade prosecution and punishment as ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

Sadly, the judge overlooked all these facts when he decided to reward the rapist for his barbaric act. What shocks the mind more than the judge’s decision to not punish the rapist was his acceptance of an arrangement from the stone age whereby the rapist drags his victim by the hair and into his private chambers for more rape!!! So rather than applying the letter of the law, which should have punished the man for the act of rape, the judge decided that “honor” was more important so that Amina’s family could walk the streets of Larache without shame.

The strange decision by the judge leaves so many unanswered questions. What if, at the time of rape, Amina were twelve years old as opposed to fifteen? Would her consent be reasonable? Would it be legally acceptable? Would it be just to marry her off at twelve? If there is any “good” from this disgusting miscarriage of justice is that Moroccans are more galvanized in their demands for a reform of the archaic penal codes.

Amina’s tale, and the Ministry of Justice’s remarks, reminded me of a sad Moroccan folklore. A father found a man having sexual intercourse with his mentally disabled teenage son. When the father reached for his knife to kill the rapist, the son reached for his father’s hand and cried, “please, dad, don’t kill him, I know him and we always play this game…I like it.” I do not share this story to take lightly Amina’s situation.

I use it as a parallel to what the Ministry of Justice stated in its statement to the press and public. Rather than using the judicial system as the “sword of justice” to punish Amina‘s rapist, the Ministry would have us believe that Amina and her rapist knew each other well and that she asked him to rape her because she knew him and enjoyed having intercourse with him!

Only two weeks ago, Moroccans celebrated International Women’s Day where they reinforced the belief that women are humans with FULL God-given rights and dignity. The court’s shameful decision and the Ministry’s cowardly statements not only retard the advancement of Moroccan women, but also contradict the belief that we consider Amina and our Moroccan mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts as FULL human beings.

With the election of a new government, Moroccans have been hopeful that they were entering an era of reform, accountability and good governance. Amina’s tragedy proves that Morocco has a long way to go before its citizens could proudly say that their country is a country of the rule of law.


Rachid Khouya is a teacher of English in Smara, the only major city in the western Sahara in southwest Morocco. He obtained a Bachelor Degree in English studies from Ibn Zohr University in Agadir. Khouya  is an active member of MATE (Moroccan Association of Teachers of English) and has published numerous articles and stories in regional and national Moroccan newspapers. He interests span topics covering human rights, education and citizenship in the region.


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