Human Rights Watch affirms the “precarious” situation for LGBTQ identifying people in Morocco. The organization makes ongoing calls for justice.
A July 22 publication titled “‘Where is the Justice’ for Moroccan Transgender Women?,” highlights Morocco’s “homophobic” laws and “LBGT people’s precarious lives in Morocco.”
Inspired by the AfroQueer podcast titled “One Night in Marrakech,” HRW notes the Moroccan government’s failure to protect queer and trans people from harassment and discrimination.
The rights organization calls on Morocco to repeal discriminatory laws that leave the LGBTQ community vulnerable and oppressed in the North African country.
The podcast, partnering with HRW to amplify African LGBTQ voices, highlights the story of a Moroccan trans woman. Manal sought asylum in Europe after a 2019 encounter with the police in Marrakech.
HRW details the injustice of Manal’s experience following a minor car accident by writing, “When police arrived, they arrested Manal, harassed her based on her gender expression, then exposed her identity by posting photos of her and a copy of her ID online, in violation of Moroccan privacy laws.”
After the arrest, Manal’s sexuality and personal identification documents became public. This led to life-threatening harassment, rejection from her family members, job loss, and bullying.
The organization explains that Manal’s story is an example of the ways trans people are “forced to practice self-censorship to navigate their daily lives.”
In the podcast, Manal also underlines the threats the LGBTQ community face in Morocco. “There are a lot of homosexuals in Morocco, but they must hide. They can’t openly say ‘I’m gay’- they have to hide who they are,” she says.
Ongoing calls to support LGBTQ rights and decriminalize homosexuality in Morocco
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Morocco under Article 489 of the Penal Code. This criminalizes “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.” Those in violation of the law risk imprisonment of six months to the years and a fine of MAD 120 ($12) to 1,200 ($120).
In 2019, Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani, a member of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), responded to the watchdog organization.
He reminded the public that Islamic principles guide the Moroccan government and that lifting the current laws would be crossing a religious red line.
Morocco’s social and legal intolerance of non-binary individuals and homosexuality have repeatedly created risks for LGBT identifying peoples. In recent years, Spanish authorities have reported an increased number of Moroccans seeking asylum over their sexual orientation.
In April 2020, Moroccan transgender beauty influencer Sofia Talouni sparked a new wave of discrimination and threats for the LGBTQ community in Morocco.
After encouraging women to “out” gay men by creating false accounts on gay dating apps, a number of gay men were forced into homelessness, harassed, rejected by their families, and some reportedly committed suicide.
The precarious situation for LGBTQ identifying people in Morocco continues to threaten the country’s progress toward human rights and attract the attention of watchdog organizations calling for justice.