Two teenage girls face up to three years in prison after they were photographed hugging and kissing on a rooftop in Marrakesh, Morocco. The photographer, a cousin, showed one of the girls’ mothers, who called the police.
The Washington Post reports that the 16-year-old and 17-year-old were arrested and held in an adult prison. Larbi Elhabbache, vice president of the Marrakesh chapter of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, told the Post that the girls have a hearing scheduled on Friday. They’re being charged with violating Article 489 of the Moroccan penal code, which punishes “licentious or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.”
The girls are facing between six months and three years of imprisonment. The case has aroused a lot of anger and protest online, and given rise to the hashtag #freethegirls. Unfortunately, Elhabbache seems skeptical about how quickly Moroccan laws regarding LGBT rights will change, saying, “It’s difficult and it will take a lot of time...We are not strong enough to force the country to change the laws.”
Human Rights Watch has called for Morocco to repeal its laws that criminalize consensual same-sex relationships, particularly as the country’s 2011 constitution guarantees a right to privacy. But in April, Morocco’s Ministry of Justice revealed a new proposed penal code that would strengthen laws that already criminalized infidelity, homosexuality, and drinking alcohol in public. It’s these sorts of socially restrictive laws that led to widespread protests against the arrest of two women in 2015, who were wearing charged with “gross indecency” after wearing dresses that were “too tight.”