Using Twitter to Petition Changing Rape Laws in Morocco


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In March 2012, sixteen year old Amina Filali committed suicide after being forced to marry her rapist. According to article 475 of Moroccan criminal law, the charges of sexual assault are dropped when the rapist accepts marrying his victim. As a result, Amina was forced into marrying her rapist (Reparation Agreement) between the victim’s family and the accused’s family, with the authorities’ blessing, in order to save the victim’s family honor. This law is the stain of shame that affects rape victims. Many families approve such marriages to avoid scandals and dishonor and they force their daughters to obey.

Amina Filali’s suicide shook the communities of human rights groups, women rights activists and the Moroccan feminist movement. Petitions under the name of “We Are All Amina Filali” started as part of a sixteen day campaign to fight against violence towards women. The campaign’s goal was to raise awareness of Amina’s tragedy and to put that law under the spotlight. Through petitions and hashtags on twitter under the hashtag of #AminaFilali #RIPAmina, Amina’s case was heard. People from around the world denounced the law. Through the campaign, thousands of voices called for the abolition of article 475 of the Moroccan criminal law, for the protection of underaged girls and women against violence, and for justice. In addition, they called on Morocco to enforce the prohibition of child marriages and prohibit judges of the criminal court from intimidating the victims into marrying their assailants, in cases of sexual violence in particular. They also asked them to take the necessary measures to protect children, and to provide training to law enforcement, as an urgent matter, and to respect the international treaties Morocco had signed to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, children’s rights treaties and the international covenant on civil and political rights, as well as to respect the Moroccan constitution itself.

In January 2014, the Moroccan parliament approved revising article 475 of the criminal law, which exempted child rapists from jail time if they accepted to marry their victim, so that they could not evade legal action by marrying a minor and would be punished by serving prison time from five to ten years.

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What we can learn from this tactic: 
This tactic could be easy to replicate with a wide range of issues because it combines two effective and well-known tactics: online activism, and naming and shaming. 
Online activism: The use of social media and other online platforms is a quick way to disseminate information to large numbers of people. That is why it has been effective in raising awareness and shedding light on abuses. People from all over the world who identify with the cause, or are outraged by the injustice are able to help contribute by using catchy hashtags or sharing articles to help raise awareness. 
Social media alone is not sufficient to create the necessary change. It can often be slow, as it takes time for enough people to get behind the cause. Information tends to move quickly on the internet. Grabbing people’s attention and keeping it can be challenging, as there are always new causes popping up and other stories to divert attention. 
Naming and shaming: At the heart of this tactic is the naming and shaming of the Moroccan government for its noncompliance with its own constitution and the international treaties it has signed. Activists should look to their own national laws when demanding their rights, and call out their government if it is not abiding by them. International laws, treaties and monitoring mechanisms are also great back-up tools to use when fighting for rights.  
Naming and shaming governments who are committing human rights abuses can be an effective way to hold perpetrators accountable, shed light on the abuses, and erect change. Governments, for the most part, tend to care about their reputation in the international community. The degree of interest in preserving reputation bears upon the potential to be successful. The Moroccan Feminist Movement carried out this tactic successfully because they were able to facilitate widespread social media use to hold the Moroccan government accountable, leading to the abolishment of impunity-granting laws.