Professor sheds light on women’s rights
In March 2012, a 16-year-old Moroccan girl killed herself after being forced to marry her 24-year-old rapist.
Zakia Salime, associate professor of Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers, told the story of Amina Filali, whose case is often used by Western cultures as a stereotype of Islamic culture.
Salime spoke yesterday as part of the Institute for Research on Women’s Distinguished Lecture series on Douglass campus.
She opened by saying she was there to represent two sides of a debate and to deal with a variety of questions surrounding feminism and Islam.
According to Moroccan penal code, Filali’s rapist was able to avoid conviction and incarceration by marrying Filali, Salime said.
The situation created a stirring worldwide debate that resulted in the end of the penal code that entrapped Filali in her marriage, Salima said.
The case was more of an issue about outdated French colonialist ideals that influenced Morocco, she said.
Colonial practice requires reading a verse of the Quran and having two witnesses present at a marriage ceremony, Salime said. This tradition does not safeguard against the illegal marriage of minors or marriage without parental consent.
In 2004, the Moroccan government adopted the practice of marriage licensing and set the legal marriage age to 18 years old, she said.
Though a Moroccan newspaper was the first to break Filali’s story, Salime said it gained worldwide recognition from interested young people on the Internet.
Much of Morocco’s population is illiterate, and so Filali’s story did not necessarily reach those closest to the situation, Salime said.
The case prompted young people to start an international conversation over the Moroccan penal codes, she said.
The Twitter hashtag #RIPAmina began trending worldwide which prompted different media organizations to begin reporting about it.
In more traditional areas, protests caused people to question the accepted practice and European parliaments joined in on the debate, she said.
Ibn Kafka and other online groups pointed out that judges went along with the accepted practice of arranged marriage of rapists and victims because they did not want to deal with issues of rape, she said.
Salime brought light to the other side of the debate.
A Moroccan attorney said on a television interview that countries like Spain and Belgium had similar marriage laws, in an attempt to portray that Morocco was not the only one to hold such beliefs, Salime said.
Bassima Hakkaoui, Moroccan minister for Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development, sided with the rapist and defended existing penal codes, Salime said.
Sharon Aguirre, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, attended the lecture hoping to expand on the readings and concepts outlined in her women and gender studies class, which touched upon the subject of gender decolonization.
Salime’s lecture dealt with the practices of French colonialism, which she said do not consider women’s rights.
Salime said Islamic culture has changed in the past 10 years.
“Times and practices are changing in a region of the globe that is presently entangled in deadly conflicts, only time will tell if the impactful stories of people like Amina will make a lifelong impact,” Salime said.
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