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Morocco: AIDS, Money and Sex Toys

Morocco has a low prevalence of the HIV infection, compared to other African countries. According to official figures, 2,800 Moroccans have presented the symptoms of the disease, whilst 22,300 have been infected and live with the virus, since the discovery of the illness in the 1980s. A day of campaigning, information and screening of HIV/AIDS was organized throughout the country on April 25.

Looking out to Sea by gwgs on Flickr.

Looking out to Sea by gwgs on Flickr.

The country has a reputation of tolerance, and although this is mainly a young and fairly open society there are still instances of prejudices suffered by people infected with the virus, and the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS as blogger Miloud reminds us:

ينظر المجتمع المغربي إلى هؤلاء المصابين باحتقار أحيانا وبخوف في أحايين أخرى، فالمغاربة يعتبرون أن السيدا لعنة إلهية تصيب المرء عقابا على سلوكه المنحرف البعيد عن الأخلاق والدين الإسلامي، وبناء على ذلك ينبذون المصابين [...] يعيشون وسط القلق والاكتئاب والميولات الانتحارية بسبب هذا النبذ الاجتماعي وعدم التفهم الذي قد يكون في كثير من الأحيان من طرف أقرب الأقرباء.

Moroccan society looks at those infected with the virus sometimes with contempt, and some other times with fear. Moroccans consider HIV/AIDS as a divine curse invoked as a punishment for deviant behavior opposed to ethics and the Islamic religion they rejected those infected [...] [The victims] live in a state of anxiety and depression, with suicidal tendencies caused by this social ostracization and with a lack of compassion even, sometimes, from close relatives.

Gay-Maroc-Musul, a blog interested in Moroccan gay issues, reminds us how financing is important and explains how NGOs, including the Moroccan prominent Anti-Aids association ALCS, who have met with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on April 22nd, to ask for more funds for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, have been disappointed by the minister's response:

[Les associations] ont fait valoir que le Fond Mondial n’avait plus assez de ressources pour financer tous les projets techniquement et scientifiquement validés qui lui sont soumis par les pays les plus pauvres. Mais Bernard Kouchner a clairement exclu toute augmentation de la France au Fonds mondial, confirmant juste le maintien de son financement actuel.

The associations have put forward the fact that the Global Fund lacks resources to finance projects technically and scientifically validated, submitted to it by the poorest countries. But Bernard Kouchner has clearly excluded any increase in France's [participation] in the Global Fund, and has only confirmed that his country will carry on contributing at its present level.

The HIV-AIDS pandemic has undeniably transformed the approach of many countries toward sexual questions that have long been considered taboo, especially in conservative societies. And as the Moroccan society tries to figure out the best way to fight the infection, and as discussions on sexual matters get more and more open throughout the blogosphere, we learn about signs of “sexual emancipation” as some would call it. According to Vanessa Pellegrin, a journalist based in Casablanca and blogging on the collective blog Casawaves:

Contrairement aux idées reçues, les marocaines (surtout celles âgées entre 20 et 25 ans) sont friandes [de sextoys]. Mis à part les commandes privées faites à une amie qui s’envolerait pour l’Europe, et qui ramènerait avec elle un jouet coquin sous le manteau, il existe de vrais réseaux, parfaitement discrets et organisés qui se chargent de vendre ces jouets pour adultes.

Contrary to preconceived ideas, Moroccan women (especially those aged between 20 and 25) are fond of sex toys. Apart from private orders passed through a friend flying over to Europe and who might bring back some naughty toy under the coat, there are real networks perfectly discreet and organised set up for selling those adult items.

This post provoked a passionate and frenzied response.

  • http://jilliancyork.com Jillian C. York

    Thanks Hisham for covering such an important issue. Living in Morocco, I was always surprised by the dichotomous attitude toward HIV. Young friends would support local efforts to pass out condoms on the street or educate youth about the disease, but would privately confide the attitude that “it doesn’t happen to good people.”

    Excellent first post!

  • http://almiraatblog.wordpress.com/ Hisham

    There is indeed a lot of ambivalence toward the issue of HIV/AIDS in a society still quite conservative. Whilst -as you rightly put it Jillian- many acknowledge the importance of preventive measures, there is still a heavy moral and religious undertone attached to the infection, which practically doesn’t help the fight against the disease.

  • http://www.tabutoys.com/ Anna

    I’m sure the sale of adult merchandise is banned in Morocco, but is possession of sex toys also illegal?

  • http://almiraatblog.wordpress.com/ Hisham

    @Anna:
    I’m not sure about the legal details of it all but the Moroccan law is not clear in that matter. It refers to vague “immoral”, “deviant” behavior which -at the discretion of a judge- may include everything from selling to possessing such items.

  • http://jilliancyork.com Jillian C. York

    For what it’s worth, there is a small shop that does sell milder sex toys (e.g. edible underwear) in the town where I used to live. It’s run by a really elderly lady, which always made me giggle. She sells other stuff too, of course.

  • http://www.solanasaurus.com/ Solana Larsen

    Technically, edible underwear is food?

  • Malikha Abdullahwali

    Bismillah AR Rahman Ar Rahim
    As Salaamu alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu
    Insha Allah I hope that sexual satisfaction will not continue to be viewed as the panacea for Morocco’s problems. There are some variables that contribute to the inertia that has become trademark of that country such as a mind-boggling illiteracy rate despite high accessibility to the internet (a major source of educational information even for those who are drop-outs); a governing body that is merely a puppet manipulated by Israeli and American protocols; lack of adequate health care for all individuals with or without HIV disease and most significantly a withdrawal and turning away from the sincere practice of Islam-I deliberately placed this on the bottom of the totem pole because it is the first and most powerful weapon in the arsenal of cure for the surmounting maladies of the Moroccan people. The vibration of a sex toy and the short-lived pleasure it brings cannot fill the widening void that threatens to engulf the lives of a people who have lost hope. A people who have had a rich Islamic history! The dependency upon the French has to be broken and assistance should be sought from Allah SWT…meaning Allah SWT will guide the seekers of truth to a genuine source of assistance. My message to the Moroccans…do not give up your faith in Allah SWT. Turn back to Him and seek his Rahmah through sincere worship.

  • Pingback: Global Voices Online » Bloggers Reflect On HIV/AIDS Awareness In Arab World

  • Pingback: Conversations for a Better World – Bloggers Reflect On HIV/AIDS Awareness In Arab World

  • Pingback: Global Voices teny Malagasy » Hevitry ny mpamaham-bolongana momba ny fampahafantarana ny VIH/SIDA any amin’ny Tontolo Arabo

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