French app fighting violence against women brings a ‘revolution’ to Morocco

The French program The Sorority, aimed at preventing violence against women, was launched a year ago and recently launched in Morocco. There has been a flurry of protests in North Africa, who criticize what they see as a group affected by sexual violence.

“If we can help women who are being abused France, we can do this in any country, “said Priscilla Routier Trillard, 34. Parisian, in describing his decision to send The Sorority across the Mediterranean.

Launched in France in September 2020, The Sorority was found in Morocco on 16 October Instant messaging allows the victim to connect with other users and get help immediately. The messaging service also allows users to receive moral support from other women.

‘A real development problem’

Sarah *, 32, was one of the first women in Morocco to join The Sorority. From the age of 14, she was constantly harassed on her way to and from school. A young man had assaulted his younger brother Amal, * who was 13 years old at the time.

The two sisters grew up in the upper Les Princesses area of ​​Casablanca. But in Morocco, Sarah said, “you can be abused by anyone of any kind”.

Asma El Ouerkhaoui also quickly joined The Sorority in its launch in Morocco. A 39-year-old computer scientist living in Rabat, dresses like a tomboy. He said: “Wearing a skirt can be very dangerous. “Also, traditional clothing does not protect you; friends who wear veils also follow them. ”

Sarah says: “Once the abuser finds out you’re a woman, you feel humiliated. It does not matter what you wear. ”

Sarah, a law student in Bordeaux, said that she had never encountered such a problem in France. “Morocco is a real cultural crisis; we must stop covering our faces with veils. ”

Like all members of the Moroccan Sorority who spoke to FRANCE 24, Sarah said the abuse began shortly after puberty.

“As a Moroccan woman, it is clear that you are no longer a child when other men – men your father’s age – are looking at you with lustful eyes.”

Blaming

The list of recent sexual violence in Morocco is shocking: Sexual violence is recorded and broadcast online by the perpetrators; a list of cases of adultery followed by families; child rape; a 96-year-old woman is being raped by a group of teenagers.

The figures also show interest: A 2019 study by the Moroccan Ministry of Family Affairs found that more than half of Moroccan women were sexually abused. But only 6 percent of those who tried to complain – and less than 10 percent of women who are victims of domestic violence leave their abused wives.

All people connected to FRANCE 24 said they knew of women who had been raped or beaten by their husbands. None of them felt able to speak on a pen, though they promised to be anonymous.

Zainab Aboulfaraj, a Casablanca journalist, said this was not surprising. “The most cautious people in Morocco can propagate the idea that most women who have been raped deserve what happened to them – either because of their behavior or what they wear.” As a result, it seems “too embarrassing” for women to talk about rape, she continued.

Working in 2020, Aboulfaraj decided it was impossible to talk to victims of sexual assault. “The charities I met thought I was crazy,” she said. A few months later, four women finally agreed to talk with him. But they kept their first names and details of where they remain a secret even for him.

That is why the online #TaAnaMeToo list (“#I am also MeToo”) was born. Four rape victims have disrupted their speech due to anonymity provided by the videotape.

Aboulfaraj had already hidden his injuries as if they were embarrassing. At first, he did not even bother to tell anyone about the day the gang surrounded him, attacked him, and arrested him in Rabat at the age of 14.

“I healed my wounds by helping other women to heal their wounds,” she said.

A small audience, right now

“I would have used a program like The Sorority in 2004,” said Loubna Rais, an international consultant. One night that year, the President miraculously survived an attempted rape and found himself alone in a strange city.

Along with other activists from the Masaktach movement (“We will not be silent”), the President has long dreamed of a program like The Sorority.

She is now one of 117 Moroccan women who downloaded the program. But about 40 of them – mostly in the big cities of Rabat and Casablanca – signed up for The Sorority.

Morocco has good internet access, and 75 percent of Moroccans have mobile phones. But there may be an error in the program.

With a minimum monthly payment of 2,929 Dirham (€ 271) and an internet fee of 10 Dirham (€ 1) per gigabyte, and the number of Moroccans who can afford to participate in The Sorority, asked Raw, producer Sobisate.tv, a dedicated Instagram channel for feminism in North Africa.

“Let’s not forget that this is a French language program, so it does not reach many Moroccans, who read Arabic or do not know it,” said Raw, who uses a pseudonym and is a signatory. and The Sorority.

But reprimanding victims of abuse is still a major issue. In January 2021, the well-known Moroccan dancer Maya Dbaich mocked some rapists by calling them “questioning”.

In September, a video of the rape of a girl in Tangier in northern Morocco was shared online by a 15-year-old boy.

Moroccan journalists have done so much that women also criticize the victims. But Sarah said it was important not to fall into the easy trap of thinking that “women are the worst enemy of other women”.

“Our community encourages everyone to think that women are guilty,” says Sarah. “And some women have adopted this idea.”

Although the picture looks bleak, “winds of change are blowing in Morocco”, according to Aboulfaraj.

“Moroccan youth used to be safe, but now they have social networking sites,” he said. He also decided to join The Sorority after speaking to FRANCE 24.

Instagram accounts such as Sobiaste.tv and La vie d’une Marocaine (“Moroccan Woman Life”) have provided countless testimonials about the abuse of women and girls in Morocco.

But this article is not just about sexual violence – it is also about the Moroccan culture and the culture that helps to hide it.

Many Patriarchal organizations, as well as Morocco in particular, strive to foster the belief that women should see other women – first and foremost – as their opponents, Sarah said.

“But The Sorority is bringing change to Morocco, because it shows us that it is not true.”

The people behind the program have been conducting training to prepare people for what they should do to help women who are being attacked. During the first test, Sara sent a false message. Several users immediately contacted him, ready to take action to remove him from the threat.

“I understood then that The Sorority could encourage women to travel long distances to save a visitor,” she said. “That gave me new strength.”

* Names have been changed.

This article was translated from original in French.


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