Human Rights Watch says that an online campaign to out gay and bisexual men in Morocco has trampled their privacy and could subject them to physical harm, prosecution, and discriminatory measures.
Since mid-April, numerous people have used same-sex dating apps to “out” other app users; disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent.
Human Rights Watch said that this could lead to LGBT people’s ostracization by their family and community, expulsion from housing by relatives and landlords, and dismissal from their jobs.
“The consequences of ‘outing’ can be detrimental to LGBT people’s livelihoods, safety, and mental health,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The Moroccan authorities should immediately step in to protect LGBT people’s privacy and repeal anti-LGBT laws that can only fuel this homophobic behaviour.”
According to some reports, the campaign was initiated by a Moroccan LGBTQ social media influencer who urged her 600,000 followers to download dating and hookup apps to identify gay and bisexual men. Individuals then created fake accounts on the apps and circulated photos of men who use the apps on social media, captioning the photos with insults and threats.
Moroccan LGBT activists told Human Rights Watch that the “outing” campaign has led to some families expelling people from their homes. It has caused panic among people who need to protect their privacy due to social stigma toward homosexuality and the legal prohibition of same-sex relations. Unconfirmed reports claimed that at least one 21-year-old man had commited suicide after being outed.
A 23-year-old gay university student told Human Rights Watch that his brother learned of his sexual orientation when he was “outed” online and kicked him out of the house: “I have been sleeping on the street for three days and I have nowhere to go. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, not even my close friends are able to host me.” He fears for his safety if he tries to return to his brother’s house, he said.
On April 24, the Moroccan national security told Agence France Presse that the police have opened a “preliminary investigation” for “incitement to hatred and discrimination,” apparently in connection to the publication of private data targeting LGBT people.
Human Rights Watch urged Morocco to repeal article 489, which criminalises same-sex relations, and introduce legislation protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The onus is on the Moroccan government to protect LGBT people from this type of homophobic harassment and from all forms of discrimination,” Reid said. “Homophobia is a dangerous reality, but it thrives when the government criminalises same-sex conduct and fails to shield their rights to privacy and equal treatment.”