Monday, 19 March 2012

My Life as a Dog


Amina Filali was a sixteen-year-old Moroccan girl. I say was because she is now dead. She killed herself last weekend in a particularly horrible manner – she swallowed rat poison. Why? Because she had suffered a double violation: she was raped by a man and then raped by the law of her land. She was forced to marry her violator.

Under Article 475 of Morocco’s Islamic penal code, a rapist, even the rapist of a minor, can escape prosecution if he agrees to marry his victim. It’s a way, you see, of preserving the ‘honour’ of the violated woman’s family.

Amina’s attacker originally refused to marry her, only doing so to avoid a possible ten year jail sentence. She then had to endure five further months of ‘marriage’ before she killed herself. During this time she complained to her mother repeatedly that her husband was beating her. She was counselled to be patient.

There is now a campaign in Morocco to have this invidious law revoked. There is also a Facebook petition, accompanied by a perfect storm of tweets, all expressing horror at this girl’s fate. Fouzia Assouli, president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, said “We have been asking for years for the cancellation of Article 475 of the penal code which allows the rapist to escape justice.

Rape is always a difficult issue no matter where in the world it happens; difficult for the victims, who often carry the sole burden of proof. It’s particularly difficult in Islamic countries. Not only are women prejudged by law to be second-class citizens but if an accusation of rape is raised and not proved they risk being prosecuted for debauchery. Last year a woman in Afghanistan was jailed for ‘adultery by force’ after she was brutally raped by her husband’s cousin. She was only released by presidential pardon, after a wave of revulsion swept across the world.

There are places in the world where it is better to be born a dog than a woman.

30 comments:

  1. This used to be the practice in Southern Italy, too.

    Someone might do the world a service by writing a manual of 'how to safely dispose of an evil husband or father without being detected.' I wish the whole world of evil-doers should never sleep soundly.

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  2. A pity that these backwards c _ _ _ s are being imported into the western world, or that we are on the same planet for that matter.

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  3. With all that 'honour' BS among other things, Islamic countries seem to be still stuck in Western Europe's seventeenth century or so.

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    1. Deino, some are better than others but in general I would cast the time frame even further back into the past.

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  4. Ana, thanks for keeping stories like this in front of us. It is vital that we be aware of the injustice around the world.

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  5. Reading this type of stories makes me angry! Some "cultural traditions" are indeed inhumane (I believe lots of these kind of "laws" were set after their religious tradition). They need to be changed!

    In China, the second citizen are children (based on Confucius tradition). Now is getting slightly better but just a few decades ago, there were children tortured to death by their own (crazy) parents!

    You writing is very powerful Ana. This ending said it all.

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  6. Horrific. Less so is life as a Middle aged White man in England.

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    1. On that, Nobby, I can offer no comment. :-)

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  7. The publicity and outragethis grotesque injusticet has generated makes one hopeful the law may be revoked.

    But even if it were, this barbaric concept of "honour" is fatally prevalent - throughout the west, too - in cases not always as high profile, but equally insidious.

    Thanks, Ana, for this article - about a subject whose awkwardness and embarrassment make it all the more important it is openly confronted.

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    1. Thank you, Freddie. I simply can't be silent when faced with things like this.

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  8. I hope this law is revoked in Morocco. I just hate the fact that it cost this young woman her life and I hope it was not in vain. Why is it that so many people have to die in order for change to happen, no matter where it is? I wish humans would get it together before it's too late. I personally think all rapists should be sent out into space and dropped into a black hole.

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  9. Laws like this one always made me upset. I understand that it might be part of their culture but the line must be drawn somewhere. Laws like this one aren't objective enough and it's terrible that women are still treated like this nowadays.

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  10. The problem isn't restricted to Islam. I watched a report on the BBC yesterday about a Sikh woman activist in the UK, who made the very salient point that community leaders should be speaking out about this so-called "honour" bullshit, but they aren't because it would affect their popularity.

    I often wonder if something has been lost in translation by using the word "honour", because there is nothing honourable about forcing a woman who has been raped to marry her attacker, and there is nothing honourable about killing your daughter/sister because you do not approve of who she wants to marry. We should not hesitate to call those who think otherwise barbarians, and we should speak out against such attitudes wherever we encounter them.

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    1. Dennis, indeed we should. I've read of some horrible examples. What manner of man, I ask myself, could kill his own daughter; what 'honour' are such wretches worthy of?

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  11. Utterly disgusting. I'm going to include it in the 2200 post tonight.

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  12. The life of Amina Filali was tragic, but she deserves to be remembered as a heroine.

    Your post suggests that her family is fully as guilty as is her rapist in her tragic death—or more so, as Amina was entitled to trust them, and to expect love and protection from them.

    Is her father a violent, tyrannical, fanatically religious bully who terrorized Amina’s mother as well—or is the truth more complex?

    In addition to the violence of the rapist and the shameful part of her father in negotiating this forced “marriage”, what was her mother’s role? Was Amina's mother a frightened, powerless pawn of her husband, or is this a case--like female circumcision in parts of Africa, the murder of daughters-in-law in India, and the abortion or killing of girl babies in many parts of the world--of violence perpetrated by women against women, either directly or by proxy?

    Often when things go this badly wrong, it is an entire family, or even an entire society, that is sick. Your post suggests that Article 475 is more a loophole for crazies than the main thrust of Moroccan law. Why, on earth or in hell, did Amina's family activate this legal option?

    We may never know, but one thing is certain—Amina Filali rose above her persecutors, and in her abandonment, desperation, and loneliness, she found a way to affirm her own nobility.

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    1. Chris, you should see me now, you should see the tears. Your words have moved me that much.

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    2. Thank you for letting me know Ana . . . for a few moments today, I have felt close to you in spirit

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  13. "There are places in the world where it is better to be born a dog than a woman."

    Life's a bitch.

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    1. Thanks, Rehan. I'll take the time to watch this.

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