MOROCCO – Another adolescent death from unsafe abortion

28 September 2022 demonstration

In September 2022, a 14-year-old identified as Meriem died following an unsafe abortion in a rural village in the country’s centre. The debate over abortion flared up once again, but in spite of growing calls for reform to women’s reproductive rights, pervasive social attitudes and a lack of political will continue to block change. 600-800 women have an abortion every day in this country of 38 million people — many in dangerous, unsanitary conditions.

Meriem’s abortion was carried out “at the home of a young man who was sexually exploiting her”, Moroccan feminist coalition Spring of Dignity said.

“If I spoke out for abortion rights in front of my brothers, I’d be risking my life,” said student Leila, 21, adding that she comes from a relatively “modern” family. “If I said the word ‘abortion’ in my family, I’d be accused and rejected, even by my parents,” said 22-year-old Amal, a student at the University of Rabat.

Chafik Chraibi, the founder of the Moroccan Association Against Clandestine Abortion, says a lack of political will is blocking any change to an “archaic” law that dates back to 1963.

A draft bill to modify the legislation has been presented twice to parliament before being withdrawn without any official explanation. Families Minister Aawatif Hayar told parliament last month that the government was taking “serious interest” in changing the penal code. But any changes must “respect Islamic law and be acceptable to Moroccan society”, she said. But Chafik Chraibi said religious authorities and Moroccan conservatism were blocking decriminalisation — nothing in Islamic law explicitly bans abortion.

Moroccan activist Faouzia Yassine called Morocco’s laws a form of “judicial and social violence against women”. She called for a “root-and-branch reform of the penal code” to bring it in line with “international conventions that Morocco has ratified”. “Criminalisation of abortions means restricting a woman’s freedom to control her body and shows a desire to compel her to keep a fetus against her will,” she said.

SOURCE: RFI, by Agence France Presse, 13 November 2022 ; PHOTO by Fadel Senna/AFP, 28 September 2022 demonstration