Being gay is a cultural and social taboo that these young Moroccans keep hidden
Marie von Hafften
RABAT, Morocco: In Morocco, often considered one of the most liberal Muslim countries, affection between women is common. Girls loop arms, stroll hand-in-hand and sit cuddled together. But when this affection becomes romantic and women want to live openly as lesbians, Morocco’s acceptance abruptly stops.
Even after the Arab Spring, as demands for democracy and human rights ripple through North Africa, homosexuality is still an island unchanged, officially illegal and too taboo to be discussed openly. Moroccan author Abdellah Taïa, who has written a new book about growing up gay in the Arab world, lives in Paris for fear of reprisal in the country of his birth.
Moroccans Sarah and Maria, both 20, have been a couple for more than a year. Though Sarah now attends a university in France and Maria is studying fine arts in Casablanca, they spend time together whenever they can.
Maria says she’s known she was a lesbian since she was 12 years old, but Sarah struggled when she began having feelings for Maria. “I wasn’t ready to understand how you can love someone that has the same gender,” she said. Now Sarah confidently pro nounces, “I am lesbian.”
Neither woman’s family knows of her sexual orientation, but Sarah and Maria did tell some friends and colleagues they are lesbians — and lost friends as a result. Despite the pressures on lesbians in Morocco, there are signs that things might be changing. Sarah points to a growing community of support. True, it exists largely online, but internet forums such as LGBT Maroc and Lesbiennes du Maroc may help individuals feel they are not alone.
Perhaps more significantly, the government unofficially tolerates Kif-Kif, the only organisation advocating for LGBT rights in Morocco.
“We just want to be free and safe. I want to live here, but I have no security. I am Moroccan, but I cannot live in Morocco.”
With reporting assistance from Yousra El Hassani.