Some advice for gay travellers to Morocco
As news spreads about Ray Cole from the UK and a Moroccan man BEING JAILED FOR FOUR MONTHS FOR HOMOSEXUAL ACTS IN MARRAKECH, there are mounting cautions not to travel to Morocco because it is unsafe, especially for gay travellers.
Clearly while the imprisonment of Ray Cole and this Moroccan man is wrong and I will join the calls to urge the Moroccan government to repeal these medieval laws, there is also a need to provide some rational information and advice to ‘would be’ gay travellers to Morocco so that they can avoid this situation.
I have travelled extensively across Morocco as a part of gay couple and never experienced any problems. The law is clear – homosexuality is illegal, but historically they have only been known to enforce the law in situations when it involves a Moroccan. The police will never stop a gay tourist travelling alone or a gay tourist couple and detain them for being gay. This doesn’t make it right but it is the current situation.
Only just last week I heard through friends about a gay couple who got married in London and who are in Marrakech right now for their honeymoon! (and loving it!) But you should also know that displays of excessive public affection between gay and straight couples is something that would be frowned on in many Muslim countries and I believe, as a tourist it is always important to respect the local traditions and customs of where you travel to.
The law also states that a Moroccan may not accompany a tourist unless he/she has specific authorisation. A friend who we know who lives there was once stopped by the Tourist Police with a young guy who worked with him – they wanted to know what he was doing with him. It wasn’t a problem because he was able to explain (and prove) he was his boss, but had he said he was a “friend” then the outcome could have been different.
If a tourist wants to travel with a Moroccan, he must go with him to a local administration office with his passport, and a letter in French stating that the particular Moroccan will accompany him throughout his stay in Morocco. It gets registered with the authorities, the tourist keeps a copy and with this document he will not have any problems, even with sharing a hotel room.
Morocco has featured recently in various ‘exposés’ on French TV reporting that sex tourism is rife in Marrakech,that tourists come to pick up underage girls and boys, etc. And possibly on the back of this the Moroccan government is cracking down too hard to reassert its image so it is vital more than ever that gay travellers understand the local situation before they travel to Morocco.
Co-founder of FURTHER AFIELD – HAND-PICKED GAY FRIENDLY PLACES TO STAY
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