Controversies stir debate over homosexuality in Morocco

Friday 12/06/2015
Divisive law has been subject of several protests

RABAT - The trial of two men arrested for kissing in public resumed Tuesday in Morocco, where a string of recent controversies has reignited debate over homosexuality in the conversative Muslim kingdom.

Being gay is punishable in Morocco by up to three years in jail and the divisive law -- known as Article 489 -- has been the subject of several protests, including by feminist protest group Femen.

The furore boiled over last week when a weekly magazine was forced to withdraw from sale its latest edition, which featured a front cover headline asking: "Should we burn gays?"

The trial of the two men, which began on Friday, prompted an advocacy group to launch an international petition calling for their release. By Tuesday afternoon it had been signed by 70,000 people.

Last month, a member of British rock band Placebo used a performance in Rabat at Morocco's Mawazine festival to protest against the country's criminalisation of homosexuals.

Bassist Stefan Olsdal took to the stage playing a rainbow-coloured guitar with "489" written on his chest in reference to the anti-gay law.

Hours earlier, two Femen members, both French nationals, were expelled from Morocco after protesting topless in front of Rabat's landmark Hassan Tower.

A day later, 1,500 people protested in front of the French embassy in Rabat against Femen, but it was the two men who drew the most headlines after they appeared to kiss each other on the same site where the French women had bared their breasts.

The names of the men and their photographs quickly appeared in local media, and the trial has attracted criticism from rights groups.

Human Rights Watch called on the kingdom in March to drop the law that leaves gay people facing prison.

1