The Stance of Homosexuality in Western Sahara

August 26, 2023

Homosexuality, like in many other parts of the world, remains a sensitive and controversial topic in Western Sahara. In this article, we will delve into the current and historical attitudes towards homosexuality in this region.

Historical Perspective on Homosexuality in Western Sahara

Western Sahara is a disputed territory situated in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Historically, the indigenous Sahrawi people have practiced a semi-nomadic lifestyle and followed a conservative interpretation of Sunni Islam. Like in many Muslim-majority countries, homosexuality was traditionally considered taboo and condemned.

However, it is important to note that pre-colonial Sahrawi society did not overtly persecute or punish same-sex relationships. As is the case in many societies, the visibility of homosexuality and discussions around it were relatively limited due to societal norms and cultural practices.

The Influence of Colonialism

The situation dramatically changed with the arrival of European colonial powers in Western Sahara. Spanish colonization, which began in the late 19th century and continued until 1975, introduced foreign cultural and religious influences that impacted societal attitudes towards homosexuality.

Under Spanish rule, Christian notions of sexuality were imposed on Sahrawi society, leading to an increase in intolerance towards non-heteronormative expressions of sexuality. The Spanish colonial administration enforced its own moral standards upon the local population, relegating homosexuality to the margins and often considering it a sinful behavior.

Post-Colonial Era and Islamic Influence

Following the Spanish withdrawal from Western Sahara, the region became a disputed territory between Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Both sides have exerted their influence over the cultural, social, and religious fabric of the region.

Since the majority of the Sahrawi population adheres to Sunni Islam, Islamic teachings and conservative interpretations have become predominant. Homosexuality remains widely stigmatized within the context of religious teachings, which consider it a sin. The Sahrawi society, like many other conservative Muslim societies, tends to exhibit a strong resistance towards LGBTQ+ rights.

The Status of LGBTQ+ Rights in Western Sahara

As of now, Western Sahara lacks autonomy and is heavily affected by the ongoing territorial dispute. Therefore, discussions and legislative movements related to LGBTQ+ rights are still in their infancy.

Given the conservative societal attitudes and the lack of an independent governing system, LGBTQ+ individuals face significant challenges when it comes to self-acceptance, visibility, and advocacy for their rights. Same-sex relationships are largely kept hidden due to fear of social repercussions and potential legal consequences.

It is crucial to note that obtaining concrete statistical data on LGBTQ+ issues in Western Sahara is challenging due to the socio-political context of the region, limited access to information, and sensitivity surrounding the topic.

The Call for Change

Despite the current restrictions, there are individuals and organizations working towards promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity and equality within Western Sahara. Through online platforms and grassroots initiatives, activists strive to raise awareness, provide support, and challenge societal prejudices against homosexuality.

International organizations and human rights advocates have also called for increased attention to the plight of LGBTQ+ individuals in Western Sahara. They urge the international community to address the existing challenges and pressure relevant authorities to respect and protect the rights of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.


The stance of homosexuality in Western Sahara reflects a complex interplay of historical, cultural, religious, and geopolitical factors. The region's colonial past, conservative interpretation of Islam, and ongoing territorial dispute have contributed to the marginalization and suppression of LGBTQ+ individuals and their rights.

While the journey towards LGBTQ+ acceptance and equality in Western Sahara may be a long and arduous one, there is hope. The call for change, increased awareness, and international pressure can lead to a more inclusive and tolerant society where everyone can live free from discrimination and prejudice.

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