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#MeToo wave in Morocco over ‘sex for grades’ scandal



Moroccan female college students have broken their silence on professors demanding sexual favors in exchange for good grades, a scandal that has rocked the higher education system.

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North African

Testimonials have flooded social media in the style of the #MeToo movement, encouraged by activists in the conservative North African nation where victims of sexual violence are often silent.

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“I was expelled from the university a year ago on the pretext that I had cheated on an exam,” said Nadia, a 24-year-old student who declined to give her full name.

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University in Settat

“The truth is that I had just refused to submit to the sexual blackmail of one of my professors.”

Hassan I University in Settat, near Casablanca, where it was eventually readmitted, is now embroiled in a scandal involving five professors.

One was sentenced to two years in prison this month for demanding sexual favors in return for good grades, in the first such verdict, while four others are due in court on Monday.

“My case was not isolated,” said Nadia. “Other girls suffered similar things, but no one wanted to listen to us.”

In recent years, local media reported several similar cases, but failed to obtain official action.

But then a social media campaign changed the conversation, raising awareness of the magnitude of the problem.

– ‘Wave of testimonies’ –
The turning point came when screenshots were posted online, purportedly of messages in which teachers demanded sexual favors from female students.

“I hadn’t considered filing a complaint, but after the scandal broke, I filed a civil lawsuit,” Nadia said.

“My action is also a way to encourage other victims to report these acts.”

One association that helped bring some of the scandals to light was “7achak”, an expression in the local dialect used to apologize before tackling a taboo subject.

The movement launched an Instagram page inviting women victims of harassment to share their stories.

Sarah Benmoussa

“As soon as the appeal was launched, we received a wave of testimonies,” the association’s founder, Sarah Benmoussa, told AFP. “Those accompanied by evidence were published.”

More accusations against university professors began to surface online.

National School of Business and Administration in Oujda

“I speak to you to stop sexual harassment and the rotten and unacceptable acts of a monster disguised as an instructor,” wrote an alumnus of the National School of Business and Administration in Oujda.

Other victims also shared their experiences with that professor, which resulted in his suspension.

Ministry of Higher Education

Some business school officials, considered “accomplices”, were also fired, the Ministry of Higher Education said last month.

Aicha Guellaa

– ‘Zero tolerance’ –
In Tangier, a teacher at a translation school was found guilty and sentenced to prison in early January for sexual harassment, lawyer Aicha Guellaa told AFP.

Abdelmalek Essaadi University in Tetouan

According to her, “nearly 70 complaints” were also filed at the Abdelmalek Essaadi University in Tetouan, but so far they have failed to provoke a response from the university administration.

Reports of sexual harassment in academia caused an uproar among activists, online and in local media across Morocco.

Higher Education Minister Abdelatif Miraoui

They prompted Higher Education Minister Abdelatif Miraoui to promise “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment.

As the number of testimonies grew, several universities launched toll-free telephone lines and established teams to follow up on cases of sexual violence.

Karima Nadir

“It is crucial to support the victims and help them access the justice system,” said Karima Nadir, a human rights defender with the group “Outlaws”.

In 2018, after years of intense debate, a law came into force that imposed prison sentences for the first time for “sexual harassment, assault, exploitation or abuse”.

“The laws exist,” Nadir said, “but few benefit from them.”

Source Credit: TheGuardian

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