File - The walls of Chellah, just outside the city center of Morocco's capital, Rabat, January 2013.(AP Photo/Giovanna Dell'Orto)
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When Moroccan divorcee Soumaya moved in with her new French boyfriend, she was hoping to forget the unhappiness of her marriage.It's a crime in Morocco to live together out of wedlock, and unmarried couples not only face police harassment but also the prying eyes of disapproving neighbors.Cohabitation may be relatively common in Morocco's swish urban districts, but conservative religious attitudes can be stifling, especially for young couples living in downscale, traditional neighborhoods.Around a dozen couples took part in the event, which was swiftly disrupted by a small group of counterprotesters who accused the couples of "atheism," shoving them and throwing chairs at them.Article 490 of Morocco's penal code states that sex outside marriage is punishable by up to one year in jail.A study conducted by the Health Ministry in 2007 indicated that 36 percent of young Moroccan men had had sex outside marriage, while the proportion of unmarried young women who had lost their virginity was much lower, at 15 percent.
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