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Morocco: Controversial Arrest of Two Teenagers for Kissing

(Nov. 11, 2016) Two female teenagers, aged 16 and 17, are going on trial for homosexual activity after they were seen kissing and hugging last week in the Moroccan city of Marrakech; they were reportedly held for several days in an adult prison, rather than a juvenile facility. The Moroccan Association of Human Rights has assigned an attorney to represent the two young women. (Two Teenage Girls in Morocco ‘Caught Kissing’ Face Jail, AL-ARABY AL-JADEED (Nov. 4, 2016), Open Source Enterprise online subscription database, No. LIR2016110457340921; Samantha Schmidt, 2 Teenage Girls in Morocco Could Face up to 3 Years in Prison for Kissing Each Other, WASHINGTON POST (Nov. 4, 2016).)

Morocco outlaws homosexual activity and punishes it with from six months to three years of imprisonment, plus a fine. The Penal Code specifically states that anyone who “commits an impudent act against nature with an individual of his sex” is guilty of an offense. (Morocco: Code Pénal (Nov. 26, 1962), art. 489, World Intellectual Property Organization website (in French).)

The recent case has resulted in renewed calls for a change in the law, including a Twitter campaign with the tag #freethegirls. (Schmidt, supra.) Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that criminalizing homosexuality between consenting adults is a violation of international human rights. (Two Teenage Girls in Morocco ‘Caught Kissing’ Face Jail, supra.) In a report on Morocco published in 2014, HRW noted that “Moroccan courts continued to jail persons for homosexual behavior … .” (World Report 2015: Morocco/Western Sahara: Events of 2014, HRW website.)

The U.S. Department of State, in its annual human rights report, said that in Morocco, “[a]ntidiscrimination laws do not apply to LGBTI persons, and the penal code does not criminalize hate crimes.” (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Morocco, U.S. Department of State website.)

The report mentioned prosecutions for same-sex displays of affection such as kissing and went on to say that “[s]exual orientation and gender identity constituted a basis for societal violence, harassment, blackmail, or other actions, generally at a local level, although with reduced frequency. There were reports of societal discrimination, physical violence, or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” (Id.)