|YouTube screen shot of the controversial staged "gay marriage" that led to the arrests of six men under Article 489 of Moroccan Penal Code. Link to Youtube video within text-|
1:40 is "marriage scene" 3:21 is riots when men and women denounced the actions. Source. Video.
Morocco, as well as many of its neighboring countries in the Middle East, enforces strict policies banning homosexuality today. Magharebia, an African news source, published and article quoting the Moroccan Ministry of Interior,“[our agenda] is to preserve citizens’ ethics and defend our society against all irresponsible actions that mar our identity and culture.” This was issued as a response to articles calling for greater homosexual tolerance published by “Kif Kif,” a gay rights organization based in Morocco.
In recent years, Morocco’s LGBT community has fought for societal and governmental acceptance in a region where homosexuality has not been addressed as a human rights issue ever before.
“Homosexuality in Morocco is tolerated behind closed doors but repressed in public,” stated an article published in The Moroccan Daily. In 2007, six men were arrested and jailed for four to six months under Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code for holding a private party that was alleged by the Moroccan government to be a “gay marriage.” The men were charged with the evidence from a YouTube video of the party, however the video did not contain any sexual activity among the men. Human Rights Watch published an article stating, “Following the arrests [of the six charged men], hundreds of men and women marched through the streets of Ksar el-Kbir, denouncing the men’s alleged actions and calling for their punishment.” The protest reveals the social divide in regards to homosexuality acceptance in the region and demonstrates how passionately some are against the cause. Despite arrests and protests such as these, Moroccan government and society are gradually changing their views of the LGBT community.
In an article written by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, the ACLS or Moroccan Association for the Fight Against AIDS director said, “Moroccan homosexuals keep their homosexuality to themselves, and that those who come out are rejected by their friends and family.” In TelQuel’s article, Taia reveals the backlash he received from his family, “My family, my old friends have preferred to ignore me, for them I was something repaired over time and in any case concealed immediately.” Although it is a step for a Moroccan man to have the courage to come out in the public, it will take time for society to slowly become more accepting to give other LGBT individuals the ability to come forward. In an article published in the Daily Star, a Lebanese news publication, Taia states “Despite some regression in Morocco, over the last 10 years, there have been extraordinary things in terms of declarations of personal freedoms by many parts of Moroccan society.”[Taia is based in France.]
Although Mithly shows progress for the LGBT community, the Islamist opposition party has taken great efforts to defeat their efforts. News 24 quoted Mustapha Khelfi, editor of Attajdid said, “Propagation and encouragement of homosexuality represents a threat,” in response to Mithly’s establishment in Moroccan society. Writers at Mithly reveal that this is a chance to give homosexuals in the Arab community a voice, but understand that it comes with its challenges. In an article published in Menassat, a Lebanese and Middle Eastern news publication, a Mithly writer reveals his motivation to write for the magazine, “The only thing we can do is add our own voice to the debate in the hope that we will be able to change the homophobic mentality in our country, even if we realize that such a thing is quite impossible in the near future.”
According to Kif Kif, some 5,000 gay men have served jail sentences in Morocco since the country’s independence in 1956. With each step taken by the LGBT community there has been an opposing force fighting back, but looking back from 2007 to today, Morocco has gradually shifted from a closed society to a developing open state. From the government’s refusal to ban Elton John to the emergence of a gay-interest magazine - times are changing in Morocco. The gay community in Morocco recognizes the change, however, they know that change can only happen once the majority of Moroccan society has decided to become more tolerant. According to the article published in Guin Guin Bali, a Western Africa and Macaronesia news organization, Mithly publisher, Samir Bergachi said, “Our enemy is not the regime or the state, but simply the prejudices of a conservative society.”
Edited to add: Gay Maroc - Portail gay et lesbienne du Maroc - is based in Morocco