Social Media Frees Moroccan Victims of Anti-Gay Mob

On April 21, 2016 Morocco FlagThe Daily Beast reported: Two men are beaten by a mob—and then arrested for homosexuality. Then the video of their attack went viral.

Last month, in the small city of Beni-Mellal in central Morocco, two men were dragged from a private home, beaten by a mob (on camera), and then arrested by the authorities for “homosexual acts.”

“It’s a case of punishing the victims,” said Graeme Reid, the director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Program at Human Rights Watch. And indeed, one of the men was convicted almost immediately for “sexual deviancy” and “public drunkenness” and sentenced to four months in prison and a fine of 500 dirham (US $52).

Two of their attackers were convicted of assault, but received only two-month suspended sentences, according to a press release issues by HRW.

 But then came the outcry.

The video of the attack, showing the men bloody, naked, and crying, was shared widely on social media, both in Morocco and internationally. And in a surprise move last week, April 12, a Moroccan judge released the two men who had been attacked, while jailing four of the men involved in the assault.

The case shows the power of social media to expose what had previously been kept secret. A co-founder of Aswat Collective Against Discrimination Based on Gender & Sexuality, an LGBT rights group in Morocco, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told The Daily Beast that while the overall situation in regards to LGBT rights “is getting worse,” it has “started getting national and international attention, which is a good thing.”

Yet the attack and the arrest also illustrate the wider impact of anti-gay laws such as Morocco’s Article 489, which outlaws “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.” Far greater than the law’s actual reach, in terms of people arrested, is its role in inciting violence against LGBT people.

“The Moroccan government incites violence by maintaining Article 489, which does not allow gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, transgender persons and queers to access justice,” said the Aswat spokesperson. “Hence the impunity of the aggressors,”

For example, in discussing a similar anti-gay attack in the Moroccan city of Fez last year, Justice Minister Mustafa Ramid said that “we should not let people enforce the law themselves … but the persons involved should not provoke society, because society is like this.”

This kind of victim-blaming is common in these cases, but Aswat firmly rejected Ramid’s characterization of Moroccan society. “There is no one standard LGBTIQ life for the whole community,” the spokesperson said, and the degree to which someone experiences discrimination depends heavily on social class and geographical location.


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