Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
  • Criminalises sex between women
Penal Code 1962, Article 489 Unnatural Acts

Article 489 prohibits “lewd or unnatural acts” between individuals of the same sex with a penalty of up to three years imprisonment and a fine.1



A Country of Origin Information Report from the Danish Immigration Service, published in September, indicates that the number of prosecutions could be much higher than figures detailed below.


According to a report from the Chairman of the General Public Prosecutor’s Office, there were 147 ‘registered cases’ of ‘homosexuality’ and 170 charged.


A report by the Danish Immigration Service on the situation of LGBT persons in Morocco states that according to the National Human Rights Council, there had been four to five cases at courts of first instance in 2015 that involving homosexuality as a charge. While other legal experts said that there had been ten and twenty cases in 2015 and 2016 respectively.


A recent report from Human Rights Watch states that on 2 July 2014 a Moroccan appeals court upheld the convictions of six men charged with homosexual acts. Four of those individuals were convicted under Article 489 and two were imprisoned, with the rest reportedly being given suspended sentences. The report claims that all six men may have been banished from the region.


Official estimates of the number of LGBT individuals charged under the country’s laws are unavailable. One report suggests that as many as 5,000 individuals may have been arrested since the country gained independence in 1956. A report of the Associated Press includes Ministry of Justice statistics indicating “81 trials for homosexuality in 2011”.[iii]

The 2013 US Department of State Human Rights Report in Morocco found at least two examples of prosecution during the year.

Statements by Public Figures


Justice Minister Moustapha Ramid said “homosexuals should avoid ‘provoking society,’ and that citizens must not ‘enforce the law themselves’ – as though the victim had been breaking the law due to his appearance.” He said that after the incident of beating a man because he looked effeminate.

Homosexuals should avoid provoking society, and that citizens must not enforce the law themselves.

Moustapha Ramid, Justice Minister


In July, Morocco’s tourism minister, Lahcen Haddad, was forced to deny reports that a cruise ship carrying predominantly LGBT tourists was denied entry due to the passengers sexual orientation: “We do not prohibit any cruise ships, or ask our visitors about their sexual preference” the minister stated.


In May, Mustapha Ramid, a spokesman for the PJD (Morocco’s then major opposition party) spoke out against a performance of Elton John that was due to take place in the country: “This singer is famous for his homosexual behaviour and for advocating it… We’re a rather open party, but promoting homosexuality is completely unacceptable”. These concerns were rubbished by the event organiser, El Hassan Neffali, who stated: “We deal with artists and intellectuals for what they do, without taking into account their private life… Somebody’s private life is one thing, and their art or creative activities are another.” Recently at the festival, Ricky Martin courted controversy by changing the lyrics to one of his songs; referring to men rather than women. Martin sang: “It’s the way he understands, He’s my lover, he’s my friend”.

Persecution and Discrimination


The report by the Danish Immigration Service on the situation of LGBT persons in Morocco suggested that LGBT individuals can be tolerated as long provided they do not publicly display affection.

The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Morocco stated that stigma against LGBT persons did exist in society, but there were no reports of overt discrimination in employment, housing, access to education or health care.


Two teenage girls, 16-year-old Sanaa and 17-year-old Hajar, went to trial on homosexuality charges after they were caught kissing and reported to police in Marrakesh.


The 2013 US Department of State Human Rights Report found that being LGBT could “constitute a basis for societal violence, harassment, blackmail, or other actions, generally at a local level, although with reduced frequency.”


Despite reports of persecution and arrests still existing in Morocco, many reports indicate that the country is becoming increasingly tolerant to LGBT individuals. In 2010 the Morocco’s first gay magazine was announced.

Legislative News


During its third UPR cycle, Morocco noted the recommendations concerned with the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex relations and eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation. It supported other recommendations to prohibit discrimination and criminalise violence against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


No references were made to sexual orientation during the country’s first UPR cycle.

1. Penal Code 1962, Article 489 Unnatural Acts

“Any person who commits lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of between six months and three years and a fine of 120 to 1,000 dirhams, unless the facts of the case constitute aggravating circumstances.” Full text.

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