Morocco protest after raped Amina Filali kills herself

Moroccans attend a rally in favour of women's rights in the new constitution in Rabat on September 19, 2011. Campaigners want the controversial article 475 scrapped

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Moroccan activists have stepped up pressure to scrap laws that allow rapists to marry their victims - after a 16-year-old girl killed herself.

Amina Filali swallowed rat poison after being severely beaten during a forced marriage to her rapist.

An online petition has been started - and protests are planned for Saturday against a law branded by campaigners as an "embarrassment".

The penal code allows the "kidnapper" of a minor to marry her to escape jail.

'Dishonour'

Women's rights groups say the law is used to justify a traditional practice of allowing a rapist to marry his victim to preserve the honour of the woman's family.

"The article 475 is an embarrassment to Morocco's international image of modernity and democracy," President of the Democratic League for Women's Rights (LDDF) Fouzia Assouli told the BBC.

"In Morocco, the law protects public morality but not the individual," Ms Assouli said, adding that legislation outlawing all forms of violence against women, including rape within marriage, has been held up since 2006.

The BBC's Nora Fakim in Rabat says in conservative parts of Morocco, it is unacceptable for a woman to lose her virginity before marriage - and the dishonour is hers and her family's even if she is raped.

Ms Filali came from the small northern town of Larache, near Tangiers.

The legal age of marriage in Morocco is 18, unless there are "special circumstances" - which is the reason why Ms Filali was married despite being under-age.

A judge can only recommend marriage if all parties involved agree - but activists say pressure is often applied to the victim's family to avoid a scandal.

Ms Filali's father said that when he reported the rape of his daughter, he was advised of the option to marry by court officials.

"The prosecutor advised my daughter to marry, he said: 'Go and make the marriage contract'," Lahcen Filali told an online newspaper, goud.ma.

Local media reports say that the girl complained to her family about her mistreatment at the hands of the man who raped her - but they disowned her, prompting her to take her own life.

Witnesses say her husband became so outraged when she drank the poison he dragged her down the street by her hair - and she died shortly afterwards.

A Facebook page called: "We are all Amina Filali" has been formed.

Campaigners are also calling for the judge who allowed the marriage and the rapist to be jailed.

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