Hundreds of Moroccans have staged a mass sit-in in Casablanca on Wednesday evening in protest against the aggressive sexual assault of a woman on a bus, in a case that has sparked outrage across Morocco.
The 18 August assault was filmed and posted online, quickly going viral.
Protesters chanted "We are not afraid! Liberate public space!" as they marched in Morocco's largest city.
In the video, the 24-year-old victim can be seen crying, while a group of teenagers molest her, insult her and tear her clothes off. No passengers intervened to help as the footage was shot.
In a statement, Moroccan police said the victim had learning difficulties. At the time the video was posted online, no complaint had been filed by her or the driver of the bus.
Six teenagers were arrested on Monday, all between the ages of 15 and 17, according to authorities, who said the boys are now under investigation.
The same day, public transport company M’Dina Bus said the video was too short to determine whether the bus driver failed to do anything, saying: “At this stage, contrary to commentary on social media, we cannot confirm that the driver failed to react.”
Since the footage went public, some Moroccans have been posting on social media saying it was the woman’s own fault for being on a bus with so many men on it, though the majority of posters have displayed shock and anger.
More than 1,200 people said they planned to attend the sit-in on the event’s Facebook page. “It concerns us all, we can no longer be silent,” the protest description reads.
The US Mission in Morocco warned citizens to avoid the area.
Mamoun Arfal, a Casablanca resident planning to attend the demonstration, told The Independent he was concerned about the frequency of rapes in Morocco‘s biggest cities.
“What is shocking is how other passengers as well as the bus driver were turning a blind eye to it,” the 21-year-old student said. “We can’t let rapists think they’re free to do as they please, so I’m attending because not only I need to stand for what’s right but also because it might be my mother, sister or friend who’s next.”
Mr Arfal also said he had heard people victim-blaming. “I’ve even argued with my own family about it,” he said. ”Common things you’d hear are ‘her parents shouldn’t have allowed her to be out on her own’” because of her disability, he said.
“I think the passive bystanders are just as bad as the rapists,” another attendee told The Independent.
“It makes me mad that things like this are still happening even though we’re supposedly taking a few steps forward in terms of women’s rights,” the 17-year-old said. “Clearly not.”
Sexual harassment, violence, and abuse of women is a major problem in Morocco. Nearly two-thirds of women have experienced sexual, physical, psychological or economic abuse, according to a national survey.
This is also not the first time a video showing harassment of a woman has sparked mass complaints. Earlier in August, 10 seconds of footage showing a woman being chased by a group of men in Tangier infuriated rights activists, but also sparked a debate about victim blaming after some Moroccans posted online saying it was the woman’s own fault for wearing jeans and a T-shirt.
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