Criminalization of abortion in Morocco violates rights of women and girls: Amnesty International News
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Criminalization of abortion in Morocco violates rights of women and girls: Amnesty International

Morocco’s criminalization of abortion and its failure to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services is violating women’s and girls’ human rights, according to a report published Tuesday by Amnesty International.

The report concluded that the criminalization of abortion in Morocco has a “devastating” impact on women and girls, who must often resort to dangerous methods to end unwanted pregnancies. The rights group stated:

The Moroccan authorities are violating a wide range of human rights of women and girls by criminalizing abortion and sexual relations outside of marriage; denying them sexual and reproductive health services and information, and reproductive autonomy; and perpetuating harmful stereotypes and gender-based violence and discrimination against women.

The group found that Morocco was violating its duties under its national¬†constitution to ensure the rights to life, health, privacy, freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and equality between men and women. The report also stated that because Morocco is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the state is violating its obligation to “ensure that women and girls have the right to comprehensive reproductive health information, goods and services, including abortion, that are available, accessible, acceptable and of good quality.”

Morocco’s Penal Code criminalizes all abortions, providing an exception only if the abortion is performed by a doctor or surgeon, is necessary to save the pregnant person’s life or health, and is authorized by the person’s husband or a Chief Medical Doctor. The penalty for having or attempting an abortion outside these exceptions ranges from six months to two years in prison plus a fine, while anyone who procures or attempts to procure an abortion faces one to five years in prison. The code also prohibits sexual relationships between unmarried individuals, with a penalty of one month to one year in prison.

One doctor interviewed by Amnesty International stated, “What can we do as doctors? Nothing. We can’t help women. Our hands are tied. We’re frustrated because we can’t give women the help they want. There’s no regulatory framework to protect us. We’re policed.”

The rights group urged Moroccan authorities to decriminalize abortion and sexual relations outside marriage and comply with international human rights standards. The group also recommended the Ministry of Health enact a framework for abortion services that aligns with the 2022 WHO Abortion care guideline.

Amnesty International interviewed 77 people for their report, including 33 women who sought an abortion and various NGOs and legal and medical professionals. The rights group also published a report last month highlighting human rights concerns across the world, including Morocco’s violation of women’s rights. The group is one of multiple organizations and human rights groups that have called on Morocco to better protect women and girls in recent years.