Morocco’s Minister of Tourism, Lahcen Haddad, has called for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, as long as it remains private.
Haddad, who describes himself as a modern liberal, made the statement in an interview with CNN Arabic, reported Morocco World News.
“We do not accept a display of one’s sexual tendencies for provocation, but if homosexuality is a personal orientation, practised in private places, it falls within one’s personal freedom,” Haddad said.
According to Telquel.ma, he also stated that, “I think it is time to open the debate on homosexuality, taking into account the sociological structure of society. In our party, this issue is within the scope of individual freedoms.”
The minister later clarified the comments in a statement, explaining that they were intended to drive a debate on the issue and that they do not represent the views or policy of his party, the Popular Movement.
Male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Morocco, with penalties ranging from six months to three years in jail, as well as the imposition of fines.
Morocco’s tourism industry is believed to have been impacted by a series of arrests of LGBT tourists and locals over the past year.
According to Human Rights Watch, Moroccan courts often rely on confessions coerced by the police to convict people accused of homosexuality.
In July, shocking footage was posted online of an LGBT individual being brutally attacked by a mob in the city of Fez. Although condemning the attack, the country’s justice minister blamed the victim for “provoking” his assailants due to his non-traditional gender appearance.