The following is my translation of an emotional piece written by Moroccan novelist Leïla Slimani and film director Sonia Tarrab. It was signed by more 470 Moroccans – mostly women – and published in the French newspaper “Le Monde” on 23rd September. The piece asks for the Moroccan legislation regarding sexuality to evolve with the times and be brought into the 21st century. The text speaks for itself and needs no further commenting.
We, men and women of Morocco, declare ourselves outlaws.
We declare ourselves outlaws. We violate unjust laws that are obsolete and no longer relevant. We have indulged in extra-marital sexual activities. We have carried out, have had or have participated in, abortions. We have learned to fake, to compose, to pretend. But for how much longer?
Each day, every hour, in secret or in hiding, women like myself, men like you, conservatives or progressists, public figures or ordinary people, from all walks of life, from all regions, dare and assume, enjoy and play for themselves, shattering chains and trampling laws. Because they love.
Every day, I am guilty of loving and being loved. Every time that a woman is arrested, I am an accomplice. I say to myself, “That could have been me.” Then, I shut up, I continue on my way, I force myself to forget. But I can’t anymore. I cannot go on any longer. Because my body belongs to me, it doesn’t belong to my father, nor to my husband, nor to the people who surround me, nor to the eyes of men who wander in the streets, and even less to the state.
Today, I don’t want to be ashamed anymore. I who loves, undergoes abortions, has sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage. I who hides. I who risks dishonour, infamy, and prison. This culture of lies and social hypocrisy generates violence, creates the arbitrary, promotes intolerance. These inapplicable laws that kill freedom have become weapons of political or personal revenge. We are menaced by a Sword of Damocles that reminds us that our lives do not exist. How to accept that? Why accept that? Again and again…
In 2018, the Moroccan government pursued 14,503 people who were in breach of Article 490 of the penal code that punishes with prison sentences all those who have sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage. 3,048 people were imprisoned for adultery. Between 600 and 800 clandestine abortions are being carried out each day. Must all these people and their accomplices really go to prison?
We think that Moroccan society is mature enough for change and to recognise the need to respect private lives and give to each individual the right over his/her body. Our society and our country deserve this. We call upon our governors, our deciders and law makers, to show courage and take a step forwards in initiating a debate on individual freedoms. It is not a luxury or favour, it is a necessity.
How can we favour the fulfilment of our youth, allow the just participation of women in society, engage our country in progress, in human development, if our individual freedoms are not respected, if our dignity is cut short, if we all remain outlaws? Both as men and women, we will all remain outlaws, until the day the law changes.