Gay Morocco News & Reports 2011

Also see:
Behind the Mask
LGBT African website

Love, Sex and Religion–Murder in Muslim Morocco

Also see:
More information about Islam & Homosexuality
Queer Muslim magazines: Huriyah, Barra

Gay Islam discussion groups:
Muslim Gay Men     LGBT muslim
Queer Jihad           Bi-muslims
Trans-muslims       Lesbian muslims

1 LGBT Moroccans hold a historic ceremony 1/11

2 Gender abuse prevails in urban areas 1/11 (non-gay background story)

3 Moroccan single mothers face social prejudices 2/11 (non-gay background story)

4 Morocco reforms rights body 3/11

5 Morocco modernises rights organisations 3/11

6 Homosexuality Acceptance in Moroccan Society Today 6/11

7 Coming Out à l’oriental 7/11

January 2011 – IGLHRC

LGBT Moroccans hold a historic ceremony

On October 23rd, LGBT Moroccans held a historic ceremony in Rabat to observe what they christened, ‘National LGBT Day.’ The historic gathering included discussions of the fears, restrictions and dangers faced by individuals because of their sexual orientation. Kifkif, a Moroccan LGBT group, decided to submit a letter to authorities to alert them to rights violations, remind them of their human rights commitments, and push for LGBT groups to be permitted to work openly in Morocco. A full report by activist Karim Al-Samiti is on IGLHRC’s blog

2011 January 20 – Magharebia

Gender abuse prevails in urban areas, Moroccan report concludes
– A just-released report revealed what category of Moroccan women are especially vulnerable to violence.

by Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat
Gender-based violence in Morocco is mostly common in urban areas, affecting particularly young disadvantaged women, according to a recent study released by the High Commission of Planning (HCP).
To reach its conclusions, the commission surveyed 8,300 women aged 18-65 and documented cases of abuse over the period June 2009 – January 2010. HCP chief Ahmed Lahlimi concluded at a January 10th press briefing in Rabat that 62.8% of women aged 18-64 suffered at least one act of violence during a 12-month period leading up to the survey, with 63% of victims residing in urban areas.

The most frequent form was psychological violence, followed by the infringement on personal liberties. Marital violence tops the list, accounting for more than a half of gender abuse cases. Almost 40% of married women fell victim to psychological abuse, and more than 6% experienced physical violence, "which is bound to have had an effect on over 925,000 children". Young people, in particular, are affected by violence, both as aggressors and victims.

"Indeed, it should be noted that an increase of one year in a woman’s age reduces the risk of violence by 1.9% within the context of marriage, with the risk of sexual violence falling by 2.2% and the risk of physical violence dropping by 0.7%," the report said. More than half of perpetrators of physical violence in public places are people under 35. Less than one-fifth of these are reported to the authorities, with most of them involving blunt weapons or dangerous products. Meanwhile, only 3% of marital abuse incidents are reported. A quarter of these cases ended with a police report and in 38% of cases, spouses agreed to drop the proceedings. Only 1.3% of complaints ended with an arrest.

The rate of physical violence among unemployed women is 140% of the rate among working women. The fight against gender violence "requires action from anyone responsible for giving young people new ideals where. Just as in the struggle for our liberation, there is a commitment from the whole of society which goes beyond laws, habits and customs, to open up the way to the equal advancement of both men and women," the report said.

The most important thing is to work by raising awareness and changing attitudes as well as the culture which trivialises violence towards women, Social Development Minister Nouzha Skalli said. "We must stop excusing violence by saying that it’s normal for a man to be violent towards his wife because he is jealous, and that it’s a sign that he loves her," she stressed at the launch of a campaign against gender-related violence at the end of last year.

For his part, imam and MP Abdelbari Zemzemi blamed the spread of marital violence on the lack of Muslim education. "There isn’t enough religious education in Moroccan society any more. Fifty years ago, divorce, like marital violence, was much less common," he said, adding that Islam sets out a framework for the relationship between spouses and exhorts men to treat their wives well and to respect them. Sociologist Samira Kassimi stressed the need to put end to a culture of "tolerance of violence towards women". She also emphasised the importance of raising literacy levels among girls and involving young women in the workplace in order to reduce violence.

2011 February 17 – Magharebia

Moroccan single mothers face social prejudices

by Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat
Unmarried mothers and their children are forced to deal with the judgemental views of Moroccan society. For a number of years, charities and women’s rights organisations have tried to help these women find jobs and acceptance in society. They often come from the poorer levels of society, particularly domestic staff, according to Fatima Maghnaoui, director of the Annajda Centre in Rabat. Her organisation, which is part of the Union de l’action Feminine (UAF), defends women victims of violence.

Unmarried mothers, who are often illiterate, experience a living nightmare because of their exposure to social intolerance, Maghnaoui said. She added that apart from the psychological suffering, most have no financial resources. "Fortunately civil society associations have a role to play in legal and social guidance for these women, helping with accommodation if necessary, and getting them into work by providing training. In the majority of cases, they are maids who have become the victims of rape," she said.

Seventeen-year-old Zineb is five months pregnant and one of the people the Annajda Centre seeks to help. She worked in different homes since the age of ten, hoping to marry and put an end to her daily suffering. "I met Farid, a taxi driver, who promised to marry me. I wanted to set up my own home. I believed in his promises. But he could never keep his word. He doesn’t want to acknowledge the baby who’s growing in my womb," she said.

Her employers fired her as soon as they became aware of her pregnancy, and her parents rejected her outright. There was just one widowed cousin who agreed to take her in until she has the baby. Following that, she hopes to go knocking on the doors of the charities to get them to help her in the legal battle to guarantee her child’s rights, particularly the identification of the father.

While Zineb’s troubles are only just beginning, Meriama T, 25, reached her wits’ end after four years. Her three-year-old child has no official papers. She fears the time in the future when her son, Hamza, will start asking questions. "Several times I’ve considered suicide. I don’t have a life anymore because my son doesn’t have a future. Everywhere he’ll see dishonour written in people’s eyes. One of my relatives asked me to give him up for adoption by a family. I think that’s a good solution, even though I’d suffer from the separation," she said resignedly.

Lawyer and MP Fatima Moustaghfir told Magharebia that the solution does not lie in offering support for these women through specialist centres, but rather in changing the penal code to legalise abortion. This procedure, she said, should not result in severe penalties for women and the doctor who carries it out. "In the case of pregnancy caused unlawfully, the state must open the door to abortion, given that the child who comes about through illegal relations will suffer because of society’s attitude."

She explained that it is the poorest women who are the unmarried mothers, given that they do not have the financial means to resort to a secret abortion. When it comes to rape, Moustaghfir said that the man accused often ends up marrying the women, thereby legalising the pregnancy, avoiding any enquiries that would prove him to be at fault. "Even people with a high level of education do not accept such a situation," sociologist Samira Kassimi said. "This culture is deeply rooted in society, and it’s difficult to arrive at the degree of tolerance we’d like. Families often reject their daughters who fall pregnant under unlawful circumstances. Those who have the funds tend to disguise the problem by resorting to abortion."

2011 March 16 – Magharebia

Morocco reforms rights body

by Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat
Responding to pressure from citizens, Morocco is taking steps to reform its human rights institutions. The Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH) will become the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), but it is more than just a change of name. The March 3rd royal decree boosts the independence of the council and creates regional authorities for protecting human rights.

The new structure will make a decisive contribution to efforts to consolidate the democratic progress and help the culture and practice of human rights to take root in Morocco, according to CNDH President Driss El Yazami. The CNDH will be able to investigate any allegations of human rights violations. The council will also have the power to summon people to give evidence in its examinations.

It will also be able to act as an early warning mechanism in any tense situation likely to lead to human rights violations, as well as have the power to take conciliatory steps to avert social unrest. Members will also be able to visit detention centres and inspect prison conditions. The organisation’s members will be selected on the basis of their expertise and specialisation in fields relating to human rights.

It is still too early to give a verdict on the new body, according to Moroccan Human Rights Organisation President Amina Bouayache. In her view, the early indications show that the institution will have a number of major powers, in accordance with international provisions, and will be able to remedy failings. She said the officials appointed to the body "have a good knowledge of human rights, as they have worked on several issues in this field". She claimed that the creation of the new group is a clear sign of a political desire to entrench democracy and human rights.

Bouayache stressed that the lack of enforcement of measures adopted by institutions has nothing to do with willpower and everything to do with mechanisms of government and institutions. She hopes that the new powers of the council will enable it to implement a number of steps. The problem in Morocco relates not to the creation of institutions, but rather to the system of checks and balances for authority and powers, MP Habib Choubani told Magharebia. Choubani, who is also a member of the justice and legislation committee in the Chamber of Representatives, said that several existing institutions don’t have any real clout, such as the Competition Council and even parliament and the government.

2011 March 29 –

Morocco modernises rights organisations

by Hassan Benmehdi for Magharebia in Casablanca
Two weeks after establishing the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), Morocco reformed another state body. The Mediator Institution, set up in mid-March to replace the 10-year-old Diwan Al Madhalim, will have greater powers to tackle rights abuses and conduct probes. "The changes that have been introduced, namely the introduction of the CNDH to replace the CCDH, and the Mediator to replace Diwan Al Madhalim, along with an inter-ministerial human rights department, show that Morocco is hoping to help citizens obtain what they need," academic Abdelhadi L’Mestari told Magharebia.

The new body "will be all about safeguarding the dignity of citizens and protecting and advancing their rights, in perfect harmony with international standards in this area", he added. Lawyer and charity worker Abdelziz Benzakour, who is also an activist within the Party for Progress and Socialism (PPS), was picked to preside over the institution. Speaking at his appointment ceremony on Thursday (March 24th), Benzakour said that the task ahead of him would be a lengthy one. The important thing, he added, would be to keep heading in the right direction and always act with the law and duty in mind.

The institution will have the power to carry out inquiries and investigations, propose disciplinary action or refer cases to the public prosecutor. Mediators can also make recommendations on the legal aid which should be provided, particularly to the neediest sectors of society. Conciliation and mediation processes will be instituted. According to February 20 Movement activist Najib Maânaoui, the basic task is to put an end to power abuses and to ensure greater democracy and transparency in government.

"It’s high time that those in government, as well as those whom they govern, were subject to the rule of law," he said. In her turn, Fatimzahra, in her twenties, stressed that "if the Mediator Institution does not manage to restore dignity in everyday life to citizens and those facing trial, then it will not be any improvement on the Diwan Al Madhalim". Unlike its predecessor, the Mediator Institution has powers which, through the recommendations it makes, will lead to improvements in the performance and modernisation of state administration, law student Younes Aboulamajed said.

"In reality, this is a driving force for good governance in the day-to-day management of public services and restoring morality to public life," he said.

June 5, 2011 – Jour 470: Global Communications

Homosexuality Acceptance in Moroccan Society Today

According to Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code of 1962, any person who commits “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex” may be sentenced to 6 months to 3 years of imprisonment and fined 120 to 1,000 Moroccan dirhams or approximately $15 to $150 U.S. dollars. 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 2010, Moroccan parliament hosted a music festival featuring Elton John that proved controversial because he is a gay man and an advocate for LGBT rights. “We categorically reject the appearance of this singer because there is a risk of encouraging homosexuality in Morocco,” said Mustapha Ramid, an Islamist opposition party leader in News 24, a South African news article. The organization sent a request to parliament to ban the singer from performing in the festival, claiming the problem was “not with the singer himself but the image he has in society.” In an article published in Morocco Newsline, Ramid states, “Morocco is an Islamic state where stages should not be used to allow a person with such a degree of debauchery to perform because we have to shield the young from such influences.” In response, the Moroccan government refused to ban Elton John from performing and said, “The private life of a singer is not our business. We do not invite singers and artists after assessing their private lives.” The fact that the Moroccan government chose the singer to perform and stood with their decision marks a shift in homosexuality acceptance within the government. In 2010, there are multiple examples of small steps that were accomplished in regards to homosexuality tolerance and acceptance in the Morocco.

Read article

2011 July –

Coming Out à l’oriental: Maghrebi-French Performances of Gender, Sexuality, and Religion.
by Provencher DM. – a Department of Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication , The University of Maryland Baltimore County , Baltimore , Maryland , USA.

In this article, I examine issues of gender, sexuality, and religion for North African (Maghrebi)-French men in contemporary France. I introduce performance artist-photographer "2Fik," one of the Maghrebi-French research subjects from my 2010 fieldwork, and examine excerpts of his particular coming out story to his parents and situate it in relation to recent work on homosexuality in the housing projects of France’s banlieues [suburban neighborhoods] ( Chaumont, 2009 ; Naït-Balk, 2009 ). The interviewee’s narrative interweaves a variety of discourses and imagery that help distinguish his experience from those found in those publications as well as in recent scholarship on sexuality, citizenship, and transnationalism ( Cruz-Malavé & Manalansan, 2000 ; Hayes, 2000 ; Leap & Boellstorff, 2004 ; Patton & Sánchez-Eppler, 2000 ; Provencher, 2007a ).

I argue that 2Fik’s story and photography provide him a unique voice that draws on feminist and queer perspectives-informed by both reformed Islam and contemporary Western values-to "decline" ( Rosello, 1998 ) and rewrite longstanding stereotypes of Islam in France. In fact, by acting as a "citizen-photographer" ( Möller, 2010 ), 2Fik successfully declines stereotypes including the absent Muslim father, the veiled woman, and the symbolic violence associated with heteronormativity and traditional masculinity in Maghrebi-French families.