Thousands march in Morocco against child abuse


Photo - Gift of the Estate of Raymond W Phillips, 2008

Rabat: Thousands of people marched in Casablanca on Sunday to protest against child sexual abuse in Morocco after a harrowing assault last month nearly killed a nine-year-old girl. Many protesters, including many mothers and local celebrities, dressed from head to toe in white and carried white roses as they marched along the corniche, an AFP photographer said.

During the protest, organised by a coalition of rights activists calling themselves "Fi-ou" (Wake Up), demonstrators chanted slogans calling for children to be protected and denounced paedophilia. "Our goal is to ensure paedophilia is listed in the penal code because so far it is only referred to as 'aggravated rape'," said Valerie Morales-Attias, one of the organisers.

Last month the child named as Wiam was found unconscious in a pool of blood by her 6-year-old brother after a neighbour in a village of the Sidi Kacem region in northwest Morocco sexually abused and beat her, media reports said. The man, a father said to be "mentally ill," dragged the child to a field where he attacked her using a sickle, the reports said.

Wiam was operated on for seven hours to repair several fractures, a broken tendon and a ripped ear, her surgeon Tazi El Hassen told AFP. "She is no longer in danger. It was a miracle" she survived, Hassen said, adding that she was also being monitored by psychologists.

Pictures of Wiam in hospital show the child with a bandage around her head and chin, her right eye taped shut and her face bruised black and blue. Her right hand is also heavily bandaged. Wiam's ordeal prompted the coalition of activists and local figures to organise Sunday's so called "White March" in tribute to her and to other children sexually abused in Morocco.

"We know that Wiam is not the only victim of such crimes," the organisers said in a statement. "Hundreds of children, whose stories are not published by the media, are regularly raped and abused without anyone knowing,"

Two years ago 16-year-old Amina Filali committed suicide after her family forced her to marry a man who had raped her. Under Article 475 of Morocco's penal code, a suspected rapist is spared judicial proceedings if he marries his victim.

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