Morocco student behind call for horrific abuse of girls in 'earthquake campaign' jailed
A Moroccan court has sentenced a man to jail for his role in a nationwide campaign promoting the sexual exploitation of minor girls in earthquake-hit villages.
A court in Berrechid, next to Casablanca, on Monday sentenced a student to three months in jail for sharing posts on social networks calling for preying on minor girls who lost their parents in the 8 September earthquake.
Two weeks ago, Morocco’s General Directorate for National Security (DGSN) announced the arrest of the suspect, whose identity was not revealed, following several calls from women activists calling for the state to protect orphans in villages devastated by the earthquakes.
"They come to the villages to prey on minor girls and convince them to marry them. They are children. This is unacceptable and authorities must stop it," Ramzi Badiaa, a member of the Moroccan Organisation for Human Rights, told the TNA.
After the earthquake, several Moroccan users with male names started sharing posts online calling on men to head to the affected villages to find a "child bride" - in other words, rape children.
One now-deleted post stated that this was "a chance to escape the marriage unreasonable fees in the city but also an opportunity to save an orphan girl".
While it is unclear who first launched the campaign, it flourished among so-called "red-pill groups" who have promoted misogynist ideas and concepts.
Horrified by the campaign, several Moroccan NGOs have called on authorities to protect the victims of the quake and strongly punish "child marriages".
Morocco's 2004 family code (Moudawana) was aimed at increasing women’s rights and raising the minimum age for marriage from 15 to 18. However, legal discretionary powers mean that girls can marry below the age of 18 with judicial consent.
On Tuesday, Morocco's King Mohammed VI ordered a reform of the family code that might end child marriage and several injustices in the heritage, marriage and divorce laws.
Last week, he also declared that the quake orphans were "Wards of the Nation", putting them under the protection of the state.
According to a 1999 royal decree, Wards of the Nation are Moroccan children whose guardians lost their lives defending Morocco's interests.
The law stipulates that the state should provide free medical care to this category of children, as well as scholarships for secondary and higher education institutions.
The Moroccan government will officially legislate the royal order in the upcoming government council.
Authorities have yet to announce the official number of earthquake orphans but around 3,000 people were killed in the disaster and 2.8 million affected.