RABAT, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- Morocco's parliament approved on Wednesday a new law to fight violence against women after months of heated debate between political parties and civil society.
Adopted by the government in March 2016, the law was only ratified on Wednesday by the parliament with 168 deputies in favor and 55 votes against.
Law makers suggested some 224 amendments, 28 among them were introduced to the draft law.
Speaking before the vote, the Minister of Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development, Bassima Al-Hikawi, said the law broadens the definition of violence to include all kinds of violence that can be practiced against women, offers various preventive measures, and aggravates the punishment against acts of violence against women.
Under the new law, tougher penalties are imposed, especially if women are subjected to violence by those close to them or those who have authority over them and are supposed to protect them.
The law criminalizes for the first time forcing women into marriage and sexual harassment.
Women's right organizations have deemed the passed law as "not enough" and below the new constitutional provisions and the scope of violence against women.
Violence against women is a wide spreading phenomenon that stirs considerable controversy in Moroccan society.
Over the last few months, cases of violence against women have multiplied, pushing many women to set up a number of protests to pressure the government to draft tougher laws against perpetrators and create a safer space for females in public.
According to a recent study by Morocco's official High Commission for Planning, more than 40 percent of women living in towns and aged between 18 and 64 said they had been "victims of an act of violence at least once."
Another study by the Moroccan Association for Women's Rights published in December found out that six women have been killed and a further 6,039 left with psychological difficulties in the past year as a result of gender-based violence in Morocco.
The report documents distressing levels of violence perpetrated against women in the country, as well as the psychological, health and economic effects it causes for society.