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Two teen girls face jail time in Morocco for homosexuality

Two Moroccan teens have been charged with homosexual acts and face up to three years in prison if found guilty. Human Rights Watch has decried the charges, which they say is the first such case involving two girls.

Two girls, a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, appeared in court in Marrakesh, Morocco on Friday for supposedly homosexual acts.

The two teens were charged with "licentious or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex." They were arrested on October 28 after their families reported them to the authorities for allegedly kissing each other and hugging on a rooftop.

Authorities detained the two girls for a week before they were released on bail. If found guilty, they face between six months to three years in prison.

"They denied what was in the police report, namely that they had a homosexual relationship, and said their relationship was friendly," lawyer Rachid al-Ghorfi, who is representing one of the teens, told news agency AFP.

They have been charged under the controversial Article 489 of Morocco's penal code, which criminalizes so-called "sexual deviancy" between two people of the same gender.

Outcry over charges

Multiple rights organizations operating in the Middle East and North Africa have called for the charges to be dropped, launching a social media campaign under the hashtag: "#FreeTheGirls."

According to the Morocco-based Aswat Group for Sexual Minorities and the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), the girls were reportedly coerced by police into signing "confessions."

One of the girls was reportedly transferred to an adult prison where she was threatened by older prisoners, the rights groups said, adding that international standards and Moroccan law require the separation of minors and adults in detention.

"These two girls could go to prison for simply expressing affection for each other," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the region's HRW director.

"Moroccan authorities should drop charges against them and stop prosecuting people for private consensual acts."

Although arrests for alleged homosexual acts are not uncommon in Morocco, this was the first known case involving two girls, HRW noted.

rs/kl  (AFP, Human Rights Watch)

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