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Thursday 09 October 2008

Are gays at risk in Morocco?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 27th May 2008

In 2006, Shakir Badar was very proud to become the very 1st Mr Gay Morocco. But people like Shakir face a double standard in their country.
When one thinks of Morocco, one usually thinks of famous western expats like Paul Bowles, Jean Genet, Jack Kerouac, Joe Ortonand Allen Ginsberg. But is it really the oasis of relative liberal tolerance that it seems?

Earlier this year, Brian Whittaker sounded a warning note in Gay Times (March 2008). While tourists are not at risk, Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code still hands down a maximum three year prison sentence for Morocco's gay inhabitants.

In November 2007, Moroccan police raided a private party at Kar el-Kebir, south of Tangiers. Youtube footage shows a relative innocuous event, without kissing, but with same-sex dancing, a drag artiste and intoxicated lounging figures. The Muslim Right's Justice and Development PartyOpposition and Jama'atu al-'Adi wal-Ihssan (Justice and Spirituality Association) jumped to the conclusion that there had been a 'gay wedding', without a shred of evidence to substantiate that supposition. They demanded further investigation, the gutter media made similar allegations and the men were arrested and then imprisoned from four to ten months in December 2007, although their sentences were reduced in January 2008.

Amnesty International's Middle East and North African programme has condemned the sentences, especially as they were based on thus far unsubstantiated allegations, and has asked Morocco to decriminalise homosexuality. However, whether that will ever happen is a moot point, given that Morocco seems caught between the need to attract western tourists and conservative Muslim social activists. Thus, it seems likely that the double standard that Whittaker describes may stay in force, and Morocco's gay inhabitants may continue to face the consequences.

Recommended: Brian Whittaker: "Morocco Bound" Gay Times 354 (March 2008): 95-97

Craig Young - 27th May 2008