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A Moroccan activists with the number 489 written on her shirt, in reference to article 489 which stipulates that homosexuality is punishable in Morocco by up to three years in jail. (FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)

Human rights

Girls, 16 and 17, facing jail time in Morocco after being caught hugging and kissing

November 3, 2016

Two teenage girls were arrested last week in Marrakech, Morocco, and have been brought up on homosexuality charges after they were caught kissing and hugging on a rooftop. The girls are set to go on trial Friday, a development that’s prompted outrage from rights groups and calls for the charges to be dropped.

According to Omar Arbib, an activist at the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, someone surreptitiously snapped photos of the two girls, ages 16 and 17, and then showed the photos to the teens’ family members who then alerted the police, The Guardian reported. The girls appeared in court and were charged with “licentious or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex” under the controversial article 489 of Morocco’s penal code, which stipulates that homosexuality is punishable by up to three years in jail. Human Rights Watch has denounced the law and urged for the repeal of article 489 and any other laws that ban sexual relations between two consenting adults of the same gender, according to CNN. Arbib told CNN his group has also called for the law’s abolishment. “Individuals cannot be punished based on their sexual inclination,” he said.

Arbib told CNN that at least one of the girls was being subjected to harsh treatment while being detained in prison awaiting trial. He said that the mother of the 17-year-old girl told him that she found her in the adult wing of the prison when she visited her. She said her daughter told her she’d been “mistreated by other prisoners.” Since then, the two girls were released from prison while they await trial.

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