By Daily Mail Repoter
Two Moroccan women have gone on trial on charges of gross indecency for wearing skirts.
The hairdressers were arrested as they strolled through the open-air market in Inezgane, a suburb of the southern city of Agadir, last month on their way to work.
A market trader drew attention to what they were wearing and a crowd of merchants quickly gathered round, accusing them of wearing flimsy and ‘immoral’ clothes.
Security forces intervened, wresting the women away from the angry crowd and taking them to a police station to be charged.
The case has sparked outrage across the world, with an internet petition calling the arrest an attack on personal freedom has attracted thousands of signatures.
The online petition has been dubbed ‘Wearing a dress is not a crime’.
It has been signed more than 25,000 times.
There have been a number of demonstrations in Morocco, including in the commercial capital Casablanca, with protesters saying that omwne should be free to wear what they want.
Activists also gathered at the court house yesterday to give support to the defendants.
‘They were dressed in a very respectable fashion,’ said Bouchra Chetouani, a member of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH).
‘This is an unprecedented case for our region,’ said Aziz Sellami, the AMDH representative in Agadir, one of Morocco’s top tourist destinations which is famous for its white, sandy beaches.
Fouzia Assouli, head of women’s rights organisation LDDF, said the arrests of the women comes amid growing calls for ‘morality’ to be respected in conservative Morocco, which has been frequently criticised by international groups for rights abuses.
In the police report, the women were said to have been wearing clothes that were ‘too tight’.
The woman, aged 23 and 29, are being tried under an article in the penal code which says that anyone found guilty of public obscenity can be jailed for between a month and two years.
Last month, pop star Jennifer Lopez sparked anger among conservatives in Morocco – and triggered much debate – for being, according to media, ‘scantily’ dressed during a concert in Rabat that was broadcast on public television.