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Mauritania: Plan to Revise Criminal Code to Include Rape

(May 22, 2009) According to a statement from the Mauritanian Association for Maternal and Child Health, a United Nations-funded nongovernmental organization in the country's capital city of Nouakchott, there is no mention of rape in the criminal laws of Mauritania. Women who attempt to press charges for sexual assaults are often themselves viewed as criminals, and their attackers frequently go free. Bilal Ould Dick, the legal advisor to the NGO, criticized the law because it “does not define rape.” “How do you punish offenders if you have not clarified the crime?” he argued. The only crimes connected with sexual acts in the law are connected to the prohibition on sexual contact between unmarried persons. Those provisions can lead to criminalizing the victims. (Mauritania: Rape Victims Seek Justice, Find Jail, IRIN, May 8, 2009, available at

In response to the situation, it was reported on May 8, 2009, that Matty Mint Doide, of Mauritania's Ministry of Social Welfare, Children and Family, has said work has begun on revising the criminal law to define rape as a crime and to “apply related international conventions [against sexual violence].” (Id.) Mauritania has acceded to two such agreements, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979, text available from the United Nations website, (last visited May 18, 2009)) and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984, text available from the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights website, (last visited May 18, 2009)).