While homosexuality remains a criminal offense in Morocco, Human Rights groups are encouraging the country to legally accept the LGBT community.
Rabat – In collaboration with the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE), Human Rights Watch released a video, Monday, June 24.
The footage, published on the Human Rights Watch Facebook page, aims to examine and combat the myths and stereotypes faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people in the MENA region.
Human Rights Watch and the AFE invited several participants, who all self-define as LGBT, from Arab countries to discuss these controversial subjects. Four of the participants were Moroccan.
Unlike some participants who preferred to remain anonymous for their own safety and to avoid any aggressive reactions of their societies, the young Moroccans, all in their 20s, expressed their opinions openly.
In the video, whose idea is to respond to “recurring stereotypes” in the MENA region, these activists shared their own experiences.
They expressed their hope to abolish, with scientific arguments, the myths and prejudices often made by people hostile to those who self-define as LGBT.
Through 12 questions based in stereotypes, the group of activists discussed a number of topics such as “LGBT and physical appearance,” “LGBT and coming out,” “The definition of ‘normal’ sex,” and “Lesbianism and hatred of men.”
The discussion started with the first myth, which is the belief that homosexuality is a disease. Mariyem, in response to this wide-spread idea, said, “you’d hear everybody say homosexuality is a disease, you are sick, you should seek treatment, but then when you educate yourself, you find out it’s completely normal.”
When later faced with the myth of “sex between lesbians is not real sex”, Mariyem answered firmly saying, “lesbians have been having sex for a long time whether they recognize it or not.”
Youba, responding to how one’s sexuality can be determined solely from their physical appearance, said that “you can not judge a person’s orientation just from their looks.”
He further added, in relation to the issue of ‘coming out’, that “it is not necessary to reveal yourself or come out to everyone because the societies we live in are not all the same.”
At the end of the video, the participants, called activists in the footage, were asked what their source of support was. Ayoub revealed that it was his friends, who he says are activists in the LGBT community.
In light of the current LGBT situation in Morocco, the activists’ barefaced participation in this program could be considered courageous.
Despite not revealing their full names, the Moroccan participants showed their faces openly in the video. Homosexuality and gender identity, interchangeable concepts in the eyes of law, are considered a criminal act in the country.
Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code mentions that homosexuality “is punished by imprisonment from six months to three years and a fine of MAD 200 to MAD 1,000, unless the fact constitutes a more serious offense…”
In June 2016, two men were arrested for homosexual acts in a car on the outskirts of Guelmim. In accordance with article 489, both men were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of MAD 500.
The Court of Appeal in Agadir confirmed the verdict but reduced the sentence to a month and a half for one of the accused and 3 months for the other, without any explanation for the difference between the sentences.
Similar cases are tainting the image which Morocco has been trying to portray to the world. Morocco aims to adopt international human rights laws and implement relevant UN recommendations while clinging to its traditional Sharia-based values and laws.
Despite Morocco’s “efforts” to establish a non-discriminating democracy, the Council of Europe, a human rights organization in Europe composed of 47 countries, recently evaluated its partnership for democracy (with the Moroccan Parliament) granted to Morocco in 2011.
The Council consequently called on Morocco to stop criminalizing homosexuality.
The council had granted this partnership to Morocco after the country expressed its commitment to promote democracy and the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and all the values advocated by the Council.
Between Morocco’s façade and its real internal struggles lies a big gap reinforced by the lack of awareness of issues such as gender, sexuality, and identity, as well as a deeply rooted devotion to tradition.