Morocco: A Lenient Sentence


Zineb Chtit at the trial (courtesy Oujdacity)

In September, we learned about Zineb Chtit, the young Moroccan girl who was severely beaten while working as a maid.  Last week, it was announced that Zineb's attacker Nawal Houmin, the wife of the couple who had hired her, was to be punished for the crime with a sentence of three years imprisonment and a $13,000 fine.  Many human rights groups have spoken out about the sentence, calling it too lenient. 
Says blogger Crazy Moor:

But several Moroccan rights groups say they would appeal on behalf of the country’s estimated 60 thousand to 80 thousand child labourers.

The chair of the Association, “Don’t Touch My Children”, Najia Adib, says the sentence does not regret the scale of the atrocities committed, because the little girl was locked up in a cellar.

The case occurred in the eastern Moroccan city of Oujda.  Popular website, which calls itself the “premiere portal for eastern Morocco,” remarked on the incident, saying [ar]:

حكمت المحكمة الابتدائية بوجدة يوم الأثنين 12 أكتوبر 2009 بثلاث سنوات ونصف سجنا نافذا وتعويض مالي قدره 100 ألف درهم على زوجة القاضي مشغلة الطفلة زينب ، الحكم اعتبره عدة محامين بوجدة انه كان قاسيا ، ولم يأخذ بعين الاعتباراي ظرف من ظروف التخفيف … وهو حكم فاجأ الجميع لأنه جاء خلافا لما كان يردده الرأي العام الذي كان يتوقع ان يكون الحكم لا يتجاوز بضعة اشهر
On Monday, October 12, 2009, the Court of First Instance in Oujda, [eastern Morocco,] ruled a three and a half years prison sentence (without probation), plus financial compensation of 100,000 dirhams (13,000 USD) against the wife of the judge who employed the child maid Zaineb. Many lawyers in Oujda considered the ruling harsh, the court having not taken into account any of the mitigating circumstances … The ruling surprised everyone because it was contrary to what the public opinion seemed to be expecting: a penalty that wouldn't exceed a few months in prison.

Solidarité Maroc remarked somewhat sarcastically [fr]:

Malgré les dénonciations concernant les deux époux, seule l'épouse a été inculpée, alors que le juge a été innocenté. Encore une illustration de la justice, au Maroc.

Despite the accusations against the couple, only the wife was charged, while the judge was acquitted. Another illustration of Justice in Morocco.

Blogger Moustapha Mouden of the collective blog SidiSlimane [ar], remarking on a 2M program on child labor, says of the issue:

يجب الآن الانتقال إلى المرحلة الثانية، وهي التحسيس ومواجهة الظاهرةومحاربتها في العمق
أي أن المشكل في فقر الأسر التي تبعث بناتها للاشتغال..
. لكن هناك كذلك مشكل الوعي بخطورة القضية، وبالتالي لا تكفي القوان
We should now be moving to the second phase of campaigning and dealing with this problem [child work] at its roots. That is the state of deprivation that pushes many a poor family to send its child to work.

But there is also the issue of awareness this serious problem, that laws have proved insufficient to deal with.

The blogger also remarks on the issue of awareness, something that the laws cannot change:

يجب التركيز على مسألة الوعي، والتحسيس بمختلف عواقب تشغيل الفتيات… وهو ما يتطلب كذلك إعمال النصوص القانوينة الخاصة بالموضوع، وإشعار السلطات المعنية بضرورة القيام بواجبها، ومن ذلك اتفاقية حقوق الطفل التي صادق عليها المغرب، ومدونة الشغل التي تجرم تشغيل من هو/هي في أقل من 15 سنة، وكذلك قانون إجبارية تدريس الأطفال

We must focus on the question of awareness and information on the various consequences of this phenomenon on girls… This also requires reform of the legislation, and making the authorities rise up to their duties in committing to the Convention on Rights of the Child, ratified by Morocco, and to the Labor Code, which criminalizes child labor, that is the work imposed on children younger than 15 years, as well as to the law itself, making education compulsory for all young children in this country.

Special thanks to Hisham for assistance with this post.

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