RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Half of the violence against women in Morocco comes from their own husbands, a situation that needs to change, a minister from the North African nation said Monday.
Social Development Minister Bassima Hakkaoui, the sole female minister in this country of 33 million people, said she would try to push forward a law protecting women that has been stuck in parliament for eight years.
"Despite all efforts, violence against women is still widespread," she said at the opening of a regional conference on the subject. "Violence against wives represents 50 percent of all attacks against women."
According to statistics from her ministry, 6 million women in Morocco are victims of violence, roughly one in three.
In March, the suicide of a 16-year-old girl who was forced to marry the man she said had raped her made international headlines and threw a harsh spotlight on Morocco's penal code. Amina al-Filali took poison after several months of what her parents described as an abusive marriage to a man they said had raped her in the woods.
Hakkaoui, a member of a moderate Islamist party that dominated the country's election in November, has been criticized for not doing enough to protect women, including changing the law allowing rapists to be exonerated if they marry their victim.
While the official marriage age is 18, judges can approve much younger unions, which are common in rural areas that are poor and deeply traditional.
Morocco updated its family code in 2004 to improve the situation of women, but activists say more still needs to be done.
Khadija Ryadi, president of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, expressed doubts about Hakkaoui's commitment to finally passing the law protecting women.
"This law has been stuck since 2004 and Bassima Hakkaoui is the third minister speaking about it — I don't understand the delay," Ryadi said.