When it comes to women’s rights, the entire Arab world indisputably needs improvement. The latest culprit? Morocco.
Journalist Hajar Raissouni was just handed a year-long prison sentence for having an abortion and pre-marital sex. Morocco’s penal code stipulates that sexual relationships outside marriage are punishable by arrest and imprisonment of up to two years.
Raissouni, who works for local newspaper Akhbar Al Yaoum, denies the charges. She says she was seeking medical treatment for internal bleeding.
She was arrested at the entrance of her doctor’s office on August 31. Since then, Raissouni’s case has been at the centre of a nationwide debate. Soon enough, the news made headlines across the globe, with human rights organisations pushing for Raissouni’s release.
“Today’s verdict is a devastating blow for women’s rights in Morocco. Hajar Raissouni, her fiancé and the medical staff involved in the case should never have been arrested in the first place. Instead of arresting them, publicly slandering Hajar Raissouni, invading her privacy and convicting her on unjust charges, Morocco’s authorities should revoke her conviction and order her immediate and unconditional release as well as the release of all others involved in this case,”
Says Heba Moryaef, Amnesty International’s MENA director.
Raissouni’s fiancé, Amin Rifaat (a Sudanese citizen) was also sentenced to one year in prison. The doctor involved in the case, and accused of conducting the abortion was given a sentence of two years in prison and is now banned from practicing medicine for two years.
In a letter written by Raissouni and published by Akhbar Al Yaoum, the journalist stipulates that she was subjected to forced medical examinations to determine whether or not she had had sex.
Human Rights Watch has called for the North African nation to decriminalise sexual relations among adults, calling the arrest an illustration of “the country’s lack of respect of individual freedoms.”