Hundreds of Moroccans have staged a mass protest in Casablanca and Rabat against the sexual assault of a girl in a public bus that shocked the country last week. A video uploaded online showed a young woman, 24, being molested and assaulted by a group of teenagers on a bus in Casablanca; the driver ignored her screams for help.
The video and reaction to it has led to some victim-blaming and sparked a debate in the North African country about the levels of violence against women and the recurring violence and sexual harassment experienced.
Public transport company M'Dina Bus in Casablanca acknowledged that the assault took place on one of its vehicle but said that the video did not record for long enough to determine whether the bus driver eventually intervened.
The victim's sister spoke to AJ+ and said that she had a miscarriage after watching the video of the assault.
Banners and slogans used by the protesters included "No to harassment, no to violence, no to rape" and "a woman=1.5 of a man". They have raised the issue of increasing sexual harassment in the public domain and the lack of protection for women against their abusers.
Hundreds of Moroccans protested after a video showing a woman being sexually assaulted on a bus goes public pic.twitter.com/fSh131kno9
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The protesters also called for the quick adoption of a bill to tackle sexual assault and violence against women, which has been lingering in Parliament since 2013. Almost two-thirds of Moroccan women have suffered at least one violent attack; many fail to report the assaults because of an almost routine lack of action against the perpetrators.
According to an international survey conducted online and published recently on Trip.com, Morocco was ranked as the second most dangerous country in the world for female tourists; Egypt is the worst.
While the affair has aroused national and international indignation, the Moroccan political class has for the most part remained largely silent about the sexual assault. Only two parties issued statements of condemnation: the Justice and Development Party spoke up in a statement from Saâdeddine Al-Othmani of the government council, while the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) posted a statement on its website.
PPS MP Nabil Benabdellah rejected "any justification for this heinous crime" and called for the return of "necessary protection and care for the victim." The PPS expressed its "concern about the resurgence of violence in all its forms" and called for legislation to remedy it through "a participatory approach, including women's associations."