Hundreds of lawyers have mobilised to defend two women in Morocco who
are being prosecuted for indecency after wearing “tight” summer dresses
in a souk.
The two young women, hairdressers aged 19 and 23 who
worked in the nearby city of Agadir, were harassed by a group of traders
as they walked through a souk, or market, in the town of Inezgane.
were taken to a police station for their own safety, but ended up being
forced to stay the night and were brought before a court on charges of
“offending public morals”.
The case has prompted a strong
reaction in Morocco, which is divided between a relatively conservative
majority and a more Westernised minority, who are proud of Morocco’s
traditions of openness.
The country also depends on tourism,
including beach tourism, which has brought about culture clashes in more
conservative towns and villages. Tens of thousands of people have
signed a petition demanding that charges be dropped, and 200 lawyers
showed up at court for the first full hearing on Monday after news
circulated about the arrests, to offer to defend the women.
Hundreds of Moroccans have demonstrated for freedom and against the
arrest of two Moroccan women after their outfits were deemed
Photo / AFP
Meanwhile, protests were held including in Agadir, in the
capital, Rabat, and in the commercial capital, Casablanca, where men and
women together held up skirts as banners under the slogans “Wearing a
dress isn’t a crime” and “My dress, my freedom”.
The two women
have asked for anonymity, saying they are unused to the public
spotlight, and have been named in local media only as Sanaa and Siham.
lawyer said they were themselves from small, conservative inland towns
but had moved to Agadir to work in hairdressing salons.
photographs have appeared to show exactly what kind of dresses they were
wearing, but the apparel of some of the women who attended the protests
in their support, wearing sleeveless dresses and knee-length skirts,
may give some idea. The police report said the dresses were
As with most Muslim countries, it is common but
by no means universal or compulsory in Morocco for women to wear a
headscarf. Unveiled women in traditional areas – such as a souk in a
conservative town – would normally cover their shoulders, arms and legs,
but there is no requirement to do so.
There is considerably more latitude in Westernised and tourist areas.
its liberal reputation – derived partly from its history as both a
French colony and a haven for Westerners looking for a variety of
“alternative lifestyles”, ranging from artists to drug-users and even
paedophiles – Morocco has faced many of the same difficulties as other
Arab countries squaring its society with some effects of modernisation.
In common with many other Arab countries, it has become more conservative in recent years.