The criminal code’s provisions about sexual acts are suppressing Moroccans, especially the poor, and prevent us from empowering our people.
Oslo – Morocco is still feeling the affects of one criminal conviction for abortion, a conviction that sparked mass protests and drew condemnation from human rights groups.
On August 31, 2019, police officers stopped journalist Hajar Raissouni outside a clinic in Rabat. They questioned her about having an illegal abortion and sex outside marriage. Soon after, a court sentenced Raissouni to one year in prison.
Journalists, human rights activists, and ordinary citizens called the trial unfair and demanded freedom for Raissouni and everyone involved in the case. No matter the number of secret abortions performed every single day in Morocco, the penal code states that abortion is illegal, unless it is necessary to save the life of the mother.
Luckily for Raissouni, the King pardoned her, and she gained release from prison. However, she is just one of many.
A double standard
On December 6, the “outlaw” collective, a civilian group calling for reforms in the Moroccan penal code, filed a petition to Parliament asking the government to remove offenses from the criminal code that are related to individual freedom. With “Love is not a crime” as their slogan, the collective calls for a revision of the penal code to increase freedoms for Moroccans.
The deputy of the Federation of the Democratic Left (FGD), Omar Balafrej, has also joined the heated debate about the liberation of the individual in a polarized Morocco. While subject to a wave of criticism on social media, the politician wants to reform the penal code, including articles penalizing abortion, homosexuality, sex outside marriage, and marital adultery.
Balafrej wishes to raise awareness, denounce the well-established hypocrisy around these topics, and end the double-standards for Moroccans.
The first Moroccan penal code was formed in 1913, under the French protectorate. After independence in 1956, the new penal code came into effect in 1963, and Moroccans were considered to have fewer rights than foreigners, even in their own country.
And tragically, the laws do not affect the elite or the wealthy foreigners in Morocco. The laws are purposely constructed to oppress less educated and less privileged Moroccans.
People with money and privilege can easily take a flight to another country to break the law, whether it is getting an abortion or having one-night stands.
The penal code is sending Moroccans away from home
Accusations of and sentences for breaking the law not only ruin the lives of the accused, but also humiliate them. The accused can become victims of harassment, and society encourages violence and shame towards them. If you commit one of the crimes above, you are often in a law-less state where you’re safe and rights are ripped away from you.
After French colonization, we have been trained to look down, discriminate, criticize, and apply certain rules and norms only to Moroccans. And the poorer they are, the harder it hits.
Forty percent of Moroccans, mostly women, want to emigrate from the country, according to a survey by Moroccan marketing agency Sunergia and news outlet L’economiste.
Over 22,000 young Moroccans went abroad for work in 2018, according to government statistics, and the number of undocumented immigrants is possibly higher.
These are the young individuals that are supposed to build the country, create companies, and work, spread their knowledge, and grow the population. Instead, these young adults have to flee the country to obtain their freedom.
Even if there are many reasons for the migration of young Moroccans, such as low economic growth, unequal distribution of income, high unemployment, poverty, exclusion, and violations of human rights, one of the main factors is the freedom to love without the big risks it brings in Morocco. Indeed, the freedom to love is still taboo, and people do not talk about it.
Revising Articles 454, 489, 490, and 491 would not encourage anyone to have sex or “become” a homosexual. The reform would, instead, empower people and remove the burden of insignificant and out-dated laws that no longer apply in modern society.
Reform would help prevent corruption, blackmailing, and the constant pressure and double lives Moroccans must maintain today. It would also help the security and legal system to focus on real problems that really matter in modern Morocco, such as homeless children, pick-pocketing, domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse of children, and poor education.
More compassion, please
Right now, we desperately need to empower society in Morocco. As Moroccans, we have to focus on building bridges, helping each other, and calling out the hypocrisy that keeps our society behind.
We have to get rid of every single law that punishes Moroccans. We have to switch focus from practising our typical judgemental and nosy behavior to expressing compassion for our own people.
Today, Moroccans are the biggest haters of other Moroccans, and we have to put a stop to this.
Those who oppose reform of the law do not actually realize that they are the direct cause of the reduced social and economic development of Morocco. I believe it is time to take this debate to the next level. We have to start to see how we, as a society, are pushing our people down the gutter.
We have to be able to talk about these subjects, without attacking and humiliating the ones who dare to raise their voice for a change. And we have to stop accusing people of things they do not say and rather try to understand what they are actually saying.
Most importantly, we have to make it easier for young people to live because we rely on them for the future.
There is great energy in Morocco right now. The youth are taking action in creating communities that are more tolerant, more open-minded and more loving. A future Morocco already exists; we just need the laws to love us as much as we love our country.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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