Tunisia, discrete battle for LGBT rights

On the web since Arab spring, decriminalization is the goal

20 February, 18:17

    Battle for Lgbt rights in Tunisia has been on the web since Arab spring Battle for Lgbt rights in Tunisia has been on the web since Arab spring

    (ANSAmed) - TUNIS - A 50 year-old Swedish citizen was recently sentenced to serve two years in jail for engaging in homosexual acts on the basis of art 230 of the Tunisian penal code which states: "male homosexual acts (liwat) and female ones (mousahaqa) are to be punished with a detention period of up to three years". The provision has been criticized for its generic nature, a characteristic that - lawyer Giorgio Bianco told ANSAmed - by encompassing a wide variety of sanctionable actions on the one hand, offers, on the other, a scope of possibilities to the technical-judicial defense. In fact, the only way to punish one or more of the accused is to catch them in the act.
    This instance is not particularly frequent, even though it is not as rare as one may imagine, especially considering that Tunisia is increasingly turning into one of the preferred destinations of European sexual tourism. Homosexuality in itself is not punished, what is sanctioned is the sexual encounter.
    The case of the sentence against the Swedish citizen rekindled both the debate over the decriminalization of homosexuality in Tunisia and the "discrete" battle waged since 2011, particularly on the web, by LGBT activists.
    The LGBT community always existed in Tunisia, but it is only after the 2011 revolt that it began making its voice heard thanks to an increased freedom of expression. Although Tunisia wins awards abroad for tackling homesexuality in movies such as "Life of Adele" by French-Tunisian actor and director Abdellatif Kechiche, being a homexual in this country is still a strong tabu and coming out in the family is very difficult, if not impossible. That's the reason why, the anonimity afforded by the web offers welcome relief, pointed out journalist Giada Frana, quoting the case of www.gaydaymagazine.com, an e-magazine launched in Tunisia in March 2011 and dedicated to the LGBT community of Maghreb and the Mena region and www.gaytunisie.net, more specifically geared to the Tunisian LGBT community. The Facebook page "Shams - Pour la dépénalisation de l'homosexualité en Tunisie"(Sun - For the decriminalization of homosexuality in Tunisia) has more than 25 thousand 'likes'. More recently, an appeal made by numerous civil society organizations, including Atsm (Tunisian association for the support of minorities) calling for the repeal of article 230 of the penal code, within the framework of a criminal law reform, was categorically rejected by the ministry of Justice. A true Arab spring on the matter is yet to materialise and the hope is that the hypocrisy surrounding sexual orientation in Islam may soon be reformed as well. (ANSAmed).

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