Tunisia: recognition of gay marriage possible admin error

Attorney tells ANSA doc is authentic, but likely oversight

28 April, 14:59

    (ANSAmed) - TUNIS, APRIL 28 - The recent announcement in triumphant tones by the association "Shams - for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tunisia" that the Tunisian government had recognised gay marriage for the first time ever has set off a lively debate punctuated by controversy.

    "The marriage contract between a 31-year-old French citizen and a 26-year-old Tunisian, established in France, was recognised in Tunisia, which recorded it at the registry office," said Shams.

    "This fact heads in the right direction for establishing the principle of individual free will and the principle of equality and non-discrimination," it said.

    But while some, including the progressive fringes of society, favourably welcomed the news, the more traditional strongly criticised it and immediately threw into doubt the accuracy of the news, inviting Shams to publish documents to prove it.

    Homosexuality is still a crime in Tunisia, punishable with up to three years of prison.

    The president of Shams, attorney Mounir Baatour, who currently lives in Marseille, France, following death threats he received after his denied attempt to run for president in Tunisia, confirmed to ANSA that the news is authentic.

    He said the public prosecutor can no longer contest the registration of the contract because the time to file an appeal has already expired.

    However, a widely circulating theory is that the registration wasn't a deliberate act of the Tunisian government but rather a simple administrative error.

    The Tunisian minister for local affairs, Lofti Zitoun, when asked about the case, said Tunisia has no intention of recognising same-sex marriage.

    Zitoun said he knew nothing about the case but that he would look into it immediately.

    He said the presumed registration would have taken place by mistake and that it wouldn't be the first time that had happened in Tunisia, given that a similar case had occurred before in the capital.

    Attorney Giorgio Bianco of Giambrone Law, which also operates in Tunisia, told ANSA, "Unfortunately the regulation isn't that clear or express, but one can easily deduce that it can't be applied".

    "Given that the news reported by Shams has thus far been denied by authorities, and that as a result one can only comment on a hypothetical situation, not one that is currently certain, the evident error committed by Tunisian consular or registry authorities doesn't constitute on its own a first step towards the recognition of civil unions or same-sex marriages in Tunisia," Bianco said.

    "In fact, it's not in any way a legal recognition of the interpretation of the Tunisian law that could possibly influence the country's future policy on the issue, but rather an administrative error that turns out to be contrary to Tunisian constitutional values," Bianco said.(ANSAmed).

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