Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) issued a petition on February 26th calling on the Moroccan government to abolish the law which punishes homosexuality with prison sentences and to release 6 men currently jailed under the applicable criminal law chapter.
AMDH President Khadija Ryadi told Magharebia: "The purpose of the petition is to open discussion about this segment of people in society, one of those categories no one talks about."
The issue came to international attention when Moroccan security authorities arrested six people last November, after a video was circulated on the internet showing a private gay wedding ceremony in the northern Moroccan city of Ksar El-Kebir. The ceremony was reportedly organized by a man named Fouad. The tape showed clips of someone dressed in a bride's wedding clothes and walking in front of a group of attendees at one of the houses. On January 15th, the Court of Appeals in Tangier decided to reduce the imprisonment terms for five defendants but maintained the 10-month sentence against Fouad.
Addressing the alleged gay wedding video case, Ryadi said, "The time is now suitable for the government to abolish that chapter which is used to violate the personal freedoms of those people, and which was arbitrarily used in the case of Ksar El-Kebir. This has led to jailing the defendants without evidence in an unfair trial that was conducted under popular pressure and depended on a video tape that includes no proof. We consider personal freedom to be everyone's right as long as it doesn't affect others' freedoms. We call for respecting that freedom and for not intervening in it."
On the other hand, Justice and Development Party official Mustafa al-Ramid said, "The law derives its article from the Moroccan Constitution, which states that Morocco is a Muslim country." Al-Ramid said that "the subject of the petition is out of context and has nothing to do with the nature of Moroccans."
There should be no intervention in personal freedom when exercised in a private framework, he said. However, when that freedom is exercised in a public framework, as was the case of Ksar El-Kebir, then it must be governed by the values of the society and its public system.
Al Ramid expressed his sorrow about the fact that the petition was backed by a Moroccan organisation. "Laws must express the conscience of society," he said.
In response to the Islamist party member's comments, Khadija Ryadi said the AMDH maintains "there should be no discrimination among people based on race, religion, [or] ideas."
She added, "We don't consider that there should be controls in respecting human rights, and we must not depend on private affairs to violate people's freedom."
The petition campaign now under way hopes to repeal Chapter 489 of the Moroccan Criminal Code, which incriminates acts of homosexuality made by any person towards another person of the same sex.