Hotel owners in Morocco are seeking to amend an article in the penal code that prohibits sexual relations outside marriage, which prevents any man and woman who are not in a marriage relationship from renting a joint hotel room, which has negatively affected the tourism market, which has already declined due to the Corona pandemic, according to a report. It was reported by “Al-Hurra”, from the “Economist” magazine.
The magazine said that the number of tourists who visited Morocco decreased by 80 percent due to the Corona epidemic, “and this is made worse by Morocco’s ban on sex outside marriage, which stifles the local market” for hotels.
The report says that Article 490 of the Penal Code punishes people who are caught in one room without proof that they are in a marriage relationship, with imprisonment for up to a year.
“I get more calls from single couples who want to stay more than others,” says Mariam Zniber, a resort manager in the Rif Mountains region. “I can fill my hotel 100 percent if they only lift the legal ban.”
The report refers to the hopes that were placed in changing the law after the defeat of the Islamists in the parliamentary elections, and Aziz Akhannouch, who seems more liberal, assumed the prime ministership, and his government pledged to review the entire penal code, but he removed the only party from his coalition that publicly called for the amendment of the article, according to the magazine.
The Ministry of Interior may also oppose the law, and according to a former minister who spoke to the magazine, they “are afraid of turning hotels into brothels.”
The report says that while conservatives in Morocco call for respect for tradition, young people say Article 490 was introduced by France in 1953, near the end of the colonial era, and point to other Muslim countries that have been stripped of similar laws banning sex outside of marriage.
Last February, activists launched a campaign to repeal Article 490, following a court order to imprison a woman for a month for having sex outside marriage.
There were campaigns and hashtags under the titles “Love is not a crime” and “Stop490” (Stop Article 490).
This activist called for solidarity with the young woman who was imprisoned for “corruption and public breach of modesty” after the spread of a video of her sexual nature.