Rabat – “At the age of 14, my brother broke my two front teeth because he didn’t like the way I walked,” recalled O.A, a gay man from Fes. His years of suffering was filmed in a 4 minute video, painting in broad strokes the discrimination he faced from his parents, siblings, schoolmates and teachers.
A’s first encounter in a lifelong series of oppression, harassment, and abuse was with his mother. “My mother would put hot pepper in my tongue so that I would behave like the boys from my neighborhood, like a man,” he said while walking in the Medina of Rabat, his back facing the camera.
But at a tender age, O.Awas ignorant of the gender roles that society has imposed onto him and expects him to abide by.
“I wasn’t aware of what a man is and what a woman is.”
Once in school, O.A came to face abuse far greater than that of his mother. “Teachers would humiliate me several times and my classmates would call me very offensive nicknames. I knew I was different.”
As a result, O.A started missing classes. “[The abusive treatment] used to affect me, because school is supposed to be a place for forgiveness,” he said, taking a breath before continuing, “people should be raised to accept and not reject each other.”
But his escape from school did not end his suffering. “In the streets, people would cuss at me and beat me with stones,” O.A said in a darkened room and the camera still facing his back.
Unable to tolerate more abuse, O.A started taking a long, deserted road to reach home. “Instead of walking 500 m to reach home, I walked 1 km.”
O.A found solace in “friends who would accept him for his homosexuality.” The time spent with them served as an escape from a family that would “play with his mind and manipulate him into believing that he’s a shame.”
My brother would tell me that seeing me makes him want the ground to open and be buried in it.”
O.A never confessed his homosexuality to his family. “I have done nothing wrong.”
Last year, abuse reached a point that O.A couldn’t handle. “I was facing scolding from my father and brother. I used to stand up to them and leave the apartment, but eventually I had to go back because I had nowhere to go.”
O.A , like many gay men in Morocco, got “beaten, suppressed […] I cried and I hurt and there was no law to protect me from my family.”
Despite the 2011 constitution’s commitment to “banish and combat discrimination against any person, by reason of sex, color, creed, culture, social or regional origin, language, disability or any personal circumstances,” homosexuality remains intolerable in Morocco.
“If I go to the police, I would be the one to be jailed,” O.A said. Morocco has repeatedly imprisoned men under penal code article 489, which punishes homosexual conduct with sentences between six months and three years in prison and fines of MAD 120 to 1200.
Mustapha Ramid, Human Rights Minister, had condemned homosexuality several times.
He called homosexuals “trash” and recently referred to “homsexuality as a violation of human rights. For him, his position is based on “the kingdom’s constitution and its laws and the international conventions it has signed,” as well as the “national consensus,” which “only the perverts deviate from.”
O.A left home and moved in with his friends who accept him for who he is. He had to quit school. He found a job and had to begin his life from scratch, before moving to Slovakia.
By the end of the video, O.A said that “by telling my story, he is not seeking attention or pity, [he is] telling it to say [he is] gay and that [has] the right to live as any other human being in society.”