Imagine being forced to marry the man who raped you? This was the horrible reality 16 year Amina Filali faced. This drove Amina to take her own life.
In a variety of cultures, marriage after the fact has been treated historically as a “resolution” to the rape of an unmarried woman. Citing Biblical injunctions (particularly Exodus 22:16–17 and Deuteronomy 22:25–29), Calvinist Geneva permitted a single woman’s father to consent to her marriage to her rapist, after which the husband would have no right to divorce; the woman had no explicitly stated separate right to refuse. Among ancient cultures virginity was highly prized, and a woman who had been raped had little chance of marrying. These laws forced the rapist to provide for their victim.
There are two accounts of rape in the Bible that I will address here. The first was of Dinah, the only daughter of the patriarch Jacob. The man who raped her was Shechem. We learn what happened in Genesis 34:
Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.”
Shechem raped Dinah and then he wanted to marry her. Dinah’s brothers were livid. “The men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, a thing which ought not to be done.” Shechem’s father Hamor pleaded on his son’s behalf, asking Jacob to give Dinah to him as a wife. And make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves. So you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you. Dwell and trade in it, and acquire possessions for yourselves in it.” Surely Hamor was aware of what his son had done. Wasn’t he disgraced by it? Did he think that his son marrying the woman he raped would excuse what he had done? And what about Dinah? How would she have felt marrying the man who raped her? Suffice to say, the marriage didn’t go through. Two of Dinah’s brothers killed Shechem, his father and all of the men in the city. We don’t hear about Dinah after this terrible chapter in her life but it is safe to say that she never got married.
Tamar was the daughter of King David. Her half-brother Amnon lusted after her to the point where he couldn’t eat or sleep. Finally, unable to bear it any longer, he dismissed all of the servants and got Tamar to come to his room on the pretense that he was ill. She trustingly entered his room with the cakes she had made for him. He took hold of her and he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”
But she answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing! And I, where could I take my shame? And as for you, you would be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her (2 Samuel 13:1-14). After he raped her, Amnon chased her away even though she said to him, “No, indeed! This evil of sending me away is worse than the other that you did to me.” He had the servant throw her out and bolt the door. Tamar was a virgin. She went away crying bitterly. She remained at her brother Absalom’s house. Tamar didn’t go to her father to report what had happened. And we can see why. We learn that although King David was angry when he heard what Amnon had done to his half-sister, he did nothing. Amnon was not punished for his crime. Absalom took matters into his own hands and avenged his sister by murdering her rapist.
Rapists should not be allowed to marry their victims so that they could avoid jail time. They committed a crime and should be punished according the law. Victims should not be forced to marry the men who violated them. What psychological damage could that do to a woman, especially a young woman like Amina? She was forced to marry her rapist. Such an arrangement was unbearable for her. After seven months of marriage, she saw no other way out except death. Death was more preferable than staying married to Moustapha Fellak whom she accused of physical abuse. It is a terrible shame that this young girl had to die in order for the Moroccan justice ministry to support a proposal to change the penal code.
Let us hope that other young girls will be saved from the same fate as Amina. This is not just a women’s issue–it is human rights’ issue. Everyone has a right to quality of life and to be protected from violent crimes. Rape is a crime and should be treated as such. Those who commit rape should be arrested, charged and sentenced.
It is sad that we live in a world where an unwed girl or woman who has lost her virginity is considered to have dishonored her family and deemed no longer suitable for marriage. It doesn’t matter that she was raped. Some families believe that marrying the rapist is the best alternative. According to a BBC News, Amina’s mother told the Associated Press, “I couldn’t allow my daughter to have no future and stay unmarried.” It’s times like these when I am thankful that I am not a part of a culture where a young girl or woman doesn’t have the right to refuse to marry the man who raped her. Keeping the family honor in tact even if it means that the guilty party will be a part of that family is more important than their daughter’s wellbeing.
Let’s continue to hope and pray that Morocco will change the law allowing rape marriages and to curb violence against women. It’s time to take action, Morocco and prevent more tragedies like the suicide of Amina. It’s time for parents to stop forcing their daughters to marry their rapists out of fear they won’t be able to find husbands if it is known they were raped. It’s time to protect the victims and stop allowing rapists to escape prosecution. It’s time to rewrite the entire penal code to stop violence against women. It’s time for change.
In Morocco, the law protects public morality but not the individual.
- FOUZIA ASSOULI,
- president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, on the suicide of a Moroccan teenager who was reportedly forced to marry her rapist
Sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21169923; http://www.forbes.com/sites/eliseknutsen/2013/02/04/after-girls-death-morocco-will-change-rape-laws/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marital_rape; http://zeenews.india.com/news/world/morocco-to-change-law-allowing-rape-marriage_824656.html; http://www.violenceisnotourculture.org/News-and-Views/morocco-amina-filali-rape-survivor-commits-suicide-after-forced-marriage-rapist