In Morocco, “all outlaws until the law changes”
Adding injustice to pain. This is the sad experience felt by a young divorced woman, mother of two, from Tetouan in Morocco after an intimate video was posted on social networks without her knowledge. Hanna (also known by the pseudonym “Moulat El Khimar”, literally, “the girl with the veil”), found herself under the jurisdiction of Article 490 of the Moroccan penal code, which criminalises relations outside marriage.
Sentenced by the Court of First Instance of Tetouan to one month’s imprisonment and a fine of 500 Dirham (45 EUR), Hanna is the double victim of pornographic revenge and of the judicial system. While the perpetrator, who is responsible for the dissemination of the video and currently resides in the Netherlands, is also under an international arrest warrant, no judgement has been pronounced against those who participated in the dissemination of the video online.
The case is shaking Morocco as two collectives, the movement Hors-la-Loi and Collective 490, have been mobilising since October 2019 following the conviction of journalist Hajar Raissouni for “illegal abortion” and “sexual relations outside marriage”. According to figures from the General Prosecutor’s Office, more than 15,000 people have been prosecuted in the name of Article 490.
This new wave of protests, organised as a virtual sit-in centred around the sharing of a visual on a red background marked with the hashtag #STOP490, is quite successful on the internet. The call for the repeal of the article has been widely relayed on social networks by internet users as well as by many artists, intellectuals and influential public figures.
In the run-up to the legislative elections scheduled for October 2021, the Collective 490 asked the political parties to make their position on the repeal of the article known. Some members of the Moroccan Parliament have spoken out in favour of that repeal and are calling for a more comprehensive review of the penal code. To be continued.