Project Title: Sexuality, Politics and Gender in Morocco
Student: Mariama Goodwin ’17
Mentor: Dr. Mary Anne Lewis
Mohamed Choukri’s biographical novel, Le Pain Nu, discusses his early life in the northern Moroccan city, Tangier, living in poverty and among crime. He alludes to childhood memories from visits to brothels with his friends, to when his father killed his older brother, all the way up to his experience being a prostitute for an older gay man. When first released, the book was banned from Morocco as the topics were deliberately taboo. Choukri’s reality growing up in Morocco was not something that was supposed to be taught in Moroccan society. The purpose of this research project is to deconstruct the history behind the societal restraints Moroccan culture places on people who do not follow traditional norms. Morocco has made some advances in the area of social equality [for non-binary people]; last year Lahcen Haddad, the country’s tourism minister called for the decriminalization of homosexuality. However the decision has not been cemented into their legal system as the Moroccan government is deeply divided, mostly due to its very religious roots. Though their political structure is not technically a “theocracy”, (it’s what’s known as a Constitutional Monarchy) the government is heavily influenced by Islamic tradition as around 99% of the country’s population is Muslim . Islam, among other major religions, has historically been touted as a religion that is intolerant of homosexuality. Therefore, homosexuality is a crime in many Muslim countries, from Morocco, to Algeria, to Iraq and beyond. Article 489 of the country's penal code punishes homosexuality by imprisonment from six months to three years and imposes a fine of at least $20 to $100.  While many other countries, like America, are steadily moving towards a more liberal standpoint in sexuality politics, the rise of conservative Islamist parties in North Africa continues to further the paradigm of intolerance.