From Morocco to Cameroon, ladies are shifting the traces | EUROtoday

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Lhe arrest, on January 31, 2024, of Cameroonian businessman Hervé Bopda following a number of accusations of rape and sexual assault put an finish to 10 days of main mobilization. It got here to mild due to a whistleblower and a hashtag: #ceaseBopda.

It all began on January 19. On his Facebook and N'Zui Manto opened Pandora's field. In a couple of days, he obtained tons of of messages and relayed greater than 70 nameless testimonies. The whistleblower, who makes use of an assumed identify for his safety, describes Hervé Bopda “as one of the worst rapists in Cameroon”. On social networks, #ceaseBopda goes viral. In soccer stadiums, on the event of the African Cup of Nations, #ceaseBopda indicators are popping up. The influence is gigantic. Faced with the facility of this MeToo wave, the Cameroon Bar Association demanded, on January 25, the opening of an investigation by the prosecution and urged it to carry the alleged attacker “before the competent courts so that justice is rendered in accordance with the law.

In Cameroon, the long fight against impunity

An open letter signed by 22 women from Cameroonian civil society was also submitted the same day to the authorities, denouncing “the inaction or slowness of the competent government services” in circumstances of violence towards ladies.

The matter turns into political. Opponent Maurice Kamto calls on the federal government to behave. The Minister of Women's Rights Marie-Thérèse Abena Ondoa, in a press launch despatched on January 26, “encourages” the alleged victims to “break the silence” and “to provide the judicial authorities with the elements necessary to conduct the procedures intended to establish the materiality of the facts”.

The majority of the events took place in the cities of Douala and Yaoundé. Testimonies describe a violent man, threatening his victims with a gun. Throughout the stories, the portrait emerges of an extraordinary sexual predator who raged for two decades, and of the impunity from which he allegedly benefited. Around a hundred young girls denounced rapes and sexual assaults committed by the accused. Some were kidnapped at gunpoint or with the assistance of his bodyguards or others. Most victims refuse to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. One of the testimonies attributes to him strong influences and connections to the presidency. Concurring denunciations lift the veil on a vast network of pimping and ramifications in the state apparatus. The victims, for the most part, were minors at the time of the events.

At 45, Hervé Bopda, a well-known businessman in Cameroon, appeared untouchable, due to the depth of his portfolio and his network. Son of the wealthy businessman, Emmanuel Bopda Fodoup, who died in 2020, he assiduously frequented the jet-set community with all the trappings of a high roller, cigars, whiskey, beautiful watches and large cars. He would even have benefited from privileges from the authorities.

After a month in police custody, Hervé Bopda was charged with “aggravated rape” and placed in pre-trial detention on February 29 and transferred to New Bell prison, according to his lawyer, Roland Ojong-Ashu. According to the latter, “twelve people filed complaints”.

The system of protection of the powerful in Cameroon is shaken. This influential man, who seemed unassailable, is sleeping in prison. A few days before this resounding affair, still in Cameroon, a woman denounced the sexual harassment she had suffered from another man, in the context of her work. Ironically, he is the president of the Human Rights Commission. Cameroonian feminists have decided to boycott the March 8 loincloth, the name of the fabric distributed by the government for International Women's Rights Day in Cameroon. They denounce a waste while so much remains to be done!

In Morocco, women's rights defenders don't give up

Twenty years after the overhaul of the Family Code, deemed progressive but insufficient, women's rights activists in Morocco are placing their hopes in the new reform to overcome “injustices and discrimination” against women. They demand equality in matters of inheritance, guardianship of children – including in the event of divorce – and a total ban on the marriage of minors. In the crosshairs, the reform of the Family Code, announced for spring 2024. A reform which is opposed by Islamist parties, invoking rigorous interpretations of Islam, the state religion in Morocco.

In 2004, a new Family Code granting more rights to women was adopted and put an end to the condemnation of a life under male guardianship. It made it possible to place the family under the responsibility of both spouses, imposing restrictions on repudiation, marriages of minors and polygamy. However, feminists hope to go further. They were heard by King Mohammed VI, who requested a new reform of this code to “overcome the failures and negative aspects revealed by the experience carried out on the ground”. A committee, composed of the Minister of Justice and officials from judicial and religious institutions, has been responsible since September 2023 for consulting and preparing a reform project, within six months. In his speech, on the occasion of Throne Day, in July 2022, he had already mentioned this subject. “The Family Code represented a real leap forward. From now on, it is no longer enough as such,” he declared.

The modification to the Family Code, the “Moudawana”, represents a possibility to rectify “legal injustice, discrimination and violence against women in the text or in its application”, explains Samira Muheya, president of the Federation of Women's Rights Leagues (FLDF) on the TV5 Monde web site. Since 2004, Moroccan society has developed rather a lot. Women are extra emancipated. The new code notably gave ladies the proper to file for divorce and freely select their partner with out the authorization of a guardian. It set the age of marriage at 18 and positioned extreme restrictions on polygamy. However, feminist activists rapidly stated they have been disillusioned by its software, hampered by the load of traditions and the discretion left to judges. Furthermore, many inequalities persist in these texts.

The 2004 code raised the authorized age of marriage for girls to 18 (as a substitute of 15), with exceptions being doable with distinctive judicial authorization. Unfortunately, if these exemptions have been speculated to be distinctive, they aren’t. In 2022, greater than 13,000 authorizations have been issued, out of 20,000 requests. Same statement for polygamy. Despite strict circumstances (settlement from the primary spouse, assure of equity) judges have full freedom to bypass them, feminists denounce.

While the proper of guardianship of youngsters is routinely assigned to the daddy, the mom, notably within the occasion of divorce, completely wants the settlement of her ex-spouse for the best administrative procedures associated to her kids. If she remarries, she faces the chance of dropping custody of her youngster from the age of seven, if the daddy requests it. However, he retains this proper within the occasion of remarriage.

The inequality with regard to inheritance is blatant. The girl is simply entitled to half of what the person inherits. The rule of “taasib” thus obliges heiresses who haven’t any brothers to share their property with male family of the deceased, typically distant and even unknown, who can arrive on the time of demise to assert their share.

Of course, the demand for equality in issues of inheritance, demanded by actions to guard ladies's rights, arouses robust opposition from Islamists. The latter additionally oppose the ban on polygamy. The Justice and Development Party (PJD) thus solely considers amendments inside the framework of “the Islamic framework”.

It can be as much as the king, president of the Superior Council of Ulemas, a corporation with a monopoly on fatwas (non secular opinions), to resolve on essentially the most divisive questions of the reform.