Saturday, March 3, 2012

Of All The Sex Shops In All The World...

Leave it to the Internet to not only have an article like "Morocco opens its first sex shop", but to draw enough interest from someone to want to investigate further.

On its face, it looks like just one more random little stupid piece. Hey. A sex shop. Sure don't have enough of those around. But there are two things to note. First, it's in Morocco, an Islamic nation, and Islamic nations are famously conservative. Sex shops in conservative nations aren't really much of a thing (sex products are sold in Morocco, but according to an Al Arabiya link further down, they are commonly sold under the disguise of being "cosmetics"), and so the opening of one could be taken as a sign that the country is, at least in one semi-subtle way, lurching in the direction of liberalism. It's kind of like measuring the economy through underwear sales or blacked-out football games or immigration.

The second thing: it turns out that when people went to see this sex shop- for normal reasons, of course- they couldn't find it. An address was provided, but when someone went to check it out, it turned out to be in a working-class neighborhood that would never allow such a thing, and the address itself was that of a family's house; the family within didn't know what the hell was going on. And now questions are being asked; suspicions are that it may be part of a plot by left-leaning activists, namely the February 20 Movement, spawned last year as part of the Arab Spring, to embarrass the new Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane.

One question, of course, is what are you doing investigating a sex shop. Among some other recent freedom-related happenings in Morocco, to underscore the point:

*A man in the city of Nador was sentenced yesterday to six months in jail for flying an Israeli flag over his house.
*Another man, from Taza, was given three years in February for a YouTube video insulting King Mohammed VI.
*A week before that, another man was hauled into court for insulting the king on Facebook.
*An edition of a Spanish paper, El Pais, was banned last month because it, too, had a cartoon criticizing the king. Among other recent censorings listed in that link.
*A group handing out leaflets urging the boycott of elections in November were, according to Human Rights Watch, arrested and held for trial for "distribution of written material that does not bear the name and address of the printer." The Moroccan government denies arrests have taken place.

In an effort to stem the tide of the Arab Spring, Morocco instituted some level of reform, and among those reforms was that the king would no longer be considered under the nation's constitution to be 'sacred'. As you can see, if there's a difference between then and now, the February 20 Movement fails to see it. The trick is, those reforms came through vague, pliable language, language that on the surface appeared to increase freedom of speech, but in practice offered no such thing. For instance, not only was the king considered 'sacred' in the old constitution, he was also considered 'inviolable', meaning you can't criticize him. He is no longer sacred, but he remains inviolable. Samia Errazzouki of Jadaliyya takes you here through the gory details.

Given this, the presence or absence of a sex shop doesn't really stand out much. But given that the February 20 Movement lost some steam due to the reforms, or at least perceived reforms, they may be looking to re-force an issue or two.

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