I left Morocco more than 15 years ago. With the years and the distance, I have surely forgotten quite how difficult it is to live without the freedoms that have become so natural to me. I am Moroccan and, in Morocco, Muslim laws apply to me, whatever my personal relationship with the religion.
I learned that I could not be homosexual, have an abortion or cohabit. If I were to have a child without being married, I could face criminal charges and my child would have no legal status; they would be a bastard. Born of an unknown father, the child will be a societal outcast and subject to social and economic exclusion. To avoid this exclusion and not risk arrest for an extramarital relationship, hundreds of women abandon children born outside wedlock.
According to the Moroccan charity Insaf, in alone, 24 babies on average were abandoned every day, which adds up to almost 9, babies per year without identity or family, not to mention the corpses found in public bins. Virginity is an obsession in Morocco and throughout the Arab world. In street parlance, the expressions used for losing your virginity are revealing. Idealised and mythologised, virginity has become a coercive instrument intended to keep women at home and to justify their surveillance at all times.
Far more than a personal question, it is the object of collective anxiety. It has also become a financial windfall for all those who carry out the dozens of hymen restorations that happen every day and for the labs selling false hymens, designed to bleed on the first day of sexual intercourse.
The choice, for us, cannot be compared with that made by young women in the west because in Morocco it is tantamount to a political statement, however unwitting. By losing her virginity, a woman automatically tips over into criminality, which of course is no laughing matter. But making this choice is not enough: you have to be able actually to realise your wish — and the obstacles are legion. Where can lovers meet? Quite simply unthinkable.
At a hotel? Even for those who might have the means, this is impossible, for hotels are known to demand a marriage certificate for couples wishing to share a room. So we find ourselves in cars, in forests, on the edges of beaches, on building sites or in empty lots. And accompanied by the appalling fear of being found and then arrested on the spot by the police.
I have experienced it. During my final year at school, I was in a car flirting with a boy. An innocent and entirely natural flirtation between two teenagers. A police car stopped a few metres away. The policemen walked up to our car. They knew perfectly well what we were up to. That was precisely why they were doing rounds of the forest. Everyone knew that dozens of couples could be found there every day: young and old, adulterous couples and schoolchildren in love, rich and poor, all propelled by the wish for a little intimacy in the shade of the eucalyptus trees.
The police who patrol there are not a morality brigade but they behave like one. They just show up like sheep to apply a law, or rather to take advantage of the profits. This is the price of your humiliation. Around me, the boys mapped out a cruel geography.
Like everyone else, I had heard that some girls agreed to have anal sex rather than lose their virginity. I felt guilty before I had even sinned. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. Topics Society books The Observer. Reuse this content. Most popular.