LGBT rights in Tunisia

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LGBT rights in Tunisia Tunisia
Tunisia
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal since 1913
Penalty:
Up to 3 years imprisonment
Gender identity/expression
Military service yes
Family rights
Recognition of
relationships
No recognition of same-sex relationships

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Tunisia face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Tunisia, and there is only one official organised LGBT-rights movement named "Shams".[1] Most Tunisians are Muslim, and traditional Islamic attitudes and mores look upon homosexuality and cross-dressing as signs of decadence and immorality.

History[edit]

Dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali[edit]

In 2008, the government of Tunisia was one of the co-sponsors opposing statement the 2008 General Assembly resolution and declaration calling for the decriminalization of same-sex sexual intercourse worldwide.

During the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the regime pervasively filtered several gay and lesbian information or dating pages.

Post-dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali[edit]

In March 2011, Tunisia's first online magazine for the country's LGBT community, Gayday Magazine, was launched.[2] In 2014, Shams Association was formed as Tunisia's first LGBT rights organization.[3] On May 18, 2015, Shams received official government recognition as an organization.[4] On December 10, 2015, which is International Human Rights Day, Shams group joined with local activist groups to protest the ongoing discrimination against Tunisia’s LGBT community.[5]

Several civil organizations, such as the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, have been pushing for the repeal of Article 230.[6]

Constitutional law[edit]

Article 1 of the Constitution stipulates that Islam is the official religion of Tunisia.

Criminal laws[edit]

Article 230 of the Penal Code of 1913 (largely modified in 1964) decrees imprisonment of up to three years for private acts of sodomy between consenting adults.[7][Note 1]

Cross-dressing is not expressly illegal, although transgender people, along with gay people, are oftentimes accused of violating Article 226 of the national penal code which outlaws "outrages against public decency," [Huffington Post. "Tunisia's New Gay Rights Fight" 2014]

Family law[edit]

Marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman in Tunisia. Same-sex marriage, or the more limited civil unions, are not legally recognized in Tunisia.

Media[edit]

In mid 2011 (March), Tunisia's first online magazine for the country's LGBT community, Gayday Magazine, was launched. Running stories and interviews related to the country’s community, the publications covers consisted on English and French titles. In 2012, Gayday was hacked; homophobic hackers took over the publication’s email, Twitter and Facebook accounts.[8] These attacks took place at the height of an international campaign of which Gayday Magazine is a part, to raise awareness about the massacre of emo and gay people in Iraq.

Human Rights Minister Samir Dilou with the encouragement of popular TV celebrity host Samir Wafi have called for the magazine to be denied to the right of expression and stating that LGBT is a sickness not a human right. He was asked about Gayday magazine on a talk show, the Tunisian Minister for Human Rights, who is a member of the Islamic Ennahdha Party, said even freedom of expression has limits. "Of course these people are also citizens, but there is a red line and that line is our morals, our history and our culture," he said, adding - to the presenter's consternation - that that sick people needed to be treated.[9]

"That was a politically-correct type of insult," says Houssem, with a wry smile. After all, he explains, the minister did not explicitly refer to homosexuals as sick.

Fadi Krouj is the editor-in-chief and creator of Gayday Magazine, an e-magazine that's been addressing LGBT issues with a focus on the Maghreb region. Commenting on International Day Against Homophobia in 2012, Fadi stated this to http://www.wadi-online.de: "The Tunisian LGBT community in Tunisia has started to mobilize and discretely form its support-base. Reactions to the thus far mainly online activism were met with radical, homophobic statements from the current Minister of Human Rights, Samir Dilou. He described homosexuality as a mental illness that requires treatment and isolation, and described social values and traditions as red lines not to be crossed." [10]

As of today, the site is still running, however expired for a couple of months (Late January), and the latest Facebook update was December 2015. And so far there isn't any publication related to the local Tunisian LGBT community.

Human rights[edit]

In the 1990s, the Tunisia delegates to the United Nations joined with other Islamic nations to oppose efforts by the United Nations to issue a formal declaration in support LGBT rights.

A Facebook page campaigning for LGBT rights in Tunisia also has several thousand "likes".[11]

While the government has tolerated the existence of this online magazine, statements from government officials about LGBT rights tend to be negative.

During a television interview in February 2012, Minister for Human Rights Samir Dilou stated that "freedom of speech has its limits", homosexuality is "perversion", and gay people needed to be "treated medically".[12] His comments were condemned by many in Tunisian society who posted pro-LGBT pictures on social networking sites.[13]

In June 2012, Dilou rejected the recommendation of the United Nations Human Rights Committee for Tunisia to decriminalize same-sex sexual acts, stating that the concept of "sexual orientation is specific to the west" and is overridden by Tunisian law, which "clearly describes Tunisia as an Arab Muslim country".[14] In response, Amanullah De Sondy, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Miami said, "It appears that the minister is stating that Article 230 is about upholding Islam yet it is a French Colonial law that was imposed on Tunisia in 1913 and has nothing to do with Islam or Tunisian Arab traditions."[14]

In 2014, a campaign was launched on Facebook, to repeal the criminal laws used against LGBT people in Tunisia. A representative of this campaign expressed an interest to create a registered group in Tunisia to campaign for these legal reforms. [Huffington Post. Tunisia's New Gay Rights Fight. 2014].

Several NGOs in Tunisia, including the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, have asked the government to repeal the criminal law against homosexuality. [Huffington Post. Tunisia's New Gay Rights Fight. 2014].

The U.S. Department of State's 2011 human rights report found that,

Consensual same-sex sexual activity remained illegal [in 2011] under the penal code, which criminalizes it with sentences of up to three years in prison. There was anecdotal evidence that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals faced discrimination, including allegations that police officers sometimes harassed openly gay persons and accused them of being the source of HIV/AIDS. There were no known reports of persons arrested for consensual same-sex sexual activity; however, a local LGBT activist reported an uptick during the year in harassment of and assaults by unknown individuals on persons perceived to be LGBT, including multiple incidents in which individuals were followed to their homes and assaulted by people the victims described as Salafists. Human rights activists also alleged that government forces continued to assault individuals perceived as LGBT.[15]

Male prostitution[edit]

Male prostitution occurs in some Tunisian tourist resorts. In 2013, Ronny De Smet, a Belgian tourist, was sentenced to three years in prison for attempted homosexual seduction in what he believes was a sting operation by local police to extort money. De Smet was released after three months.[16]

Public opinion[edit]







Circle frame.svg

Do you think that we should punish homosexuals (February 2016 poll) [2]

  For (64.5%)
  Against (10.9%)
  Don't know (24.6%)

A poll done by ELKA Consulting in 2016 showed that 64.5% of Tunisian believed "that we should punish homosexuals", as opposed to 10.9% who believed "that we shouldn't punish homosexuals".

Summary table[edit]

Yes/No Notes
Same-sex sexual activity
Same-sex sexual activity legal
No
Penalty: Up to 3 years imprisonment
Equal age of consent
Emblem-question.svg
Discrimination laws
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only
No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services
No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)
No
Same-sex unions
Same-sex marriages
No
Civil partnerships
No
Recognition of same-sex couples
No
Adoption and children
Adoption by individuals
No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples
No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples
No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples
No
Access to IVF for lesbians
Emblem-question.svg
Other
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military
Emblem-question.svg
Right to change legal gender
Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood
Emblem-question.svg

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The official text of Article 230 in French (Jurisite Tunisie):

    La sodomie, si elle ne rentre dans aucun des cas prévus aux articles précédents, est punie de l'emprisonnement pendant trois ans.

References[edit]

External links[edit]