King's Controversial Pardon Shines Light On Pedophilia Taboos In Morocco
Mohammed VI pardoned a Spanish pedophile, before reversing himself. The case raised questions about the monarchy, but also exposes Morocco's inability to confront the plague of sex abuse.
August 16, 2013
KENITRA - It is just a detail, but it is indicative of the taboos surrounding pedophilia: Moroccans do not know the home neighborhood of Daniel Galvan, the pedophile at first pardoned by King Mohamed VI in a case griping the nation and raising questions about the monarchy's arbitrary application of justice.
Though the address of the convicted Spanish citizen was no state secret, the Moroccan media has not published a picture of the white building complex where he'd lived — nor even reported the name of this modest neighborhood, in the suburb of Kenitra, one of the country's main industrial cities, 40 kilometers from Rabat.
The stated reasons for this discretion? The need to “protect” children. But most of all the concern about the protection of families’ reputation. When Mohammed VI met the families, on August 7, after he'd decided to reverse the clemency following a nationwide uproar, all faces were blurred in photos and videos. Important measures were then taken to avoid committing a new blunder in the eyes of the Moroccan society that had never before faced this topic so publicly.
Najia Adib knows it well. In 2004 she created one of the two associations in the country helping sexually abused minors, called "Touche pas à mes enfants" (Don’t Touch My Kids). Her commitment results from a personal tragedy. In 2002, this dynamic civil servant in her forties was the first mother of a pedophile’s victim who openly testified on Moroccan television.
A few months earlier she had discovered her four-year-old girl had been abused by a school employee. Adib could identify the aggressor thanks to a DNA test carried out on her daughter's underwear. “Despite that, I heard all kinds of things,” she says. In a country where you can buy fake testimony for a few dirhams, she heard people saying her complaint was part of a plot to have the school closed down.
It was not an easy battle, even in court. In spite of the DNA test, the defendant's confessions that he'd abused several children, he was only sentenced to two years in prison. It would take several sit-ins in front of the school and an appeal to obtain what is now a standard punishment: five years in jail.
A twisted exemption
On paper, Moroccan laws are not permissive. The rape of a minor is punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment. “The problem is not the law, but the way these types of acts are viewed. They’re not regarded as serious crimes and punished as minor crimes,” says Yassine Krari, the association's lawyer.
The sentencing of Daniel Galvan to 30 years in prison in 2011 was indeed an exception. The punishment was only possible thanks to photographic and video evidence: Galvan had broadcast and made money from his sexual abuse of children.
Because of the weight of taboos, numerous cases end up quite differently: without making any noise, with an amicable settlement. Especially thanks to the controversial article of the Moroccan penal code: the article 475 that allows the aggressor of a “nubile” minor to be exempted from serving his sentence if he marries her.
“The Arab Spring brought a lot of changes”, says Hamid Krairi, lawyer of several victims of Daniel Galvan and an activist with the Moroccan Human Rights Association. “But this movement did not deeply modify a society influenced by the Muslim religion.”
Pedophilia is not only the result of sexual tourism. “Street children prostitution is just as important,” Abid notes, “but they never press charges.” So in her fight she focuses on middle-class people, the main victims, and then on the upper class within which “children are poorly monitored.
The means for changing attitudes — and actions — are still modest. Doctors and lawyers to whom she referred the victims are volunteers, and funds for the foundations are limited. Abid says she hopes the Galvan case could “be a message addressed to the judges.”
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