Jailed for kissing, 2 Moroccan girls win in court

Protest against Morocco's anti-LGBT law. (Undated photo courtesy of Altermondes)
Protest against Morocco’s anti-LGBT law. (Undated photo courtesy of Altermondes)

On Dec. 9, a court in Marrakesh, Morocco, dismissed charges against two girls who had been arrested and jailed in late October after being spotted kissing on a rooftop.

The girls, ages 16 and 17, had been charged under Article 489 of the Penal Code, which provides for up to three years in prison for same-sex intimacy.

They were arrested Oct. 27, released on bail on Nov. 3 and tried Nov. 25. On Dec. 9, they were returned to their families.

Not all  human rights defenders were satisfied with the verdict. Omar Arbib, a human rights defender from the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, welcomed the dismissal of the charges, but criticized the court because it “did not have the courage to say that the two girls are innocent of homosexuality.”

Logo of the Moroccan Assocation of Human Rights.
Logo of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights.

In Morocco, the new constitution of 2011 commits the Kingdom 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. “

Nevertheless, homosexuality remains illegal.

Arrests for homosexuality are common in Morocco. But this is the first  case involving women.

Neighbors of two defendants from Beni Mellal, Morocco, who were accused of assaulting LGBT men demonstrate against homosexuality and in favor of the defendants outside the court where they were on trial in April 2016. One of the assault victims was sentenced to four months in prison for homosexuality; that sentence was later suspended.Two of the attackers were sentenced to 4-6 months in prison. (Fadel Senna photo courtesy of AFP)
Moroccan homophobia on display: Neighbors of two men accused of assaulting a gay couple  demonstrate against homosexuality in April 2016. One of the assault victims was imprisoned for a portion of a four-month prison sentence for homosexuality before the sentence was suspended. Two of the attackers were sentenced to 4-6 months in prison. (Fadel Senna photo courtesy of AFP)

“We hope that this verdict represents the end of an ordeal that these two teenage girls should never have undergone,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch (HRW). “This case again demonstrates why Moroccan authorities should abolish Article 489 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexual acts. When a person is at risk of being arrested and prosecuted solely on the basis of his alleged sexual orientation, every Moroccan should feel concerned, “she added.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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