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Tunisians rally demanding human rights, Tunis, Tunisia, Aug. 31, 2013 (photo by Amine Ghrabi via flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0).

Tunisia’s Democratic Gains Have Done Nothing for Its LGBT Community

Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016

Last week, five Tunisian civil society associations submitted a report to the United Nations, decrying systemic attacks on members of Tunisia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Despite progress in some areas since the popular overthrow of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, many say that discrimination against the LGBT community has worsened over the past five years.

In May 2015, the Tunisian government authorized the country’s first official LGBT advocacy organization, Shams, making it the only country in the region to legalize such an association. But a smear campaign ensued, propelled by some conservative politicians and religious figures. Abdellatif Mekki, a prominent parliamentarian and former health minister, called for the group to be disbanded, arguing that Tunisians “had a revolution for freedom . . . not to found an association to defend gays.” He added that homosexuals are “dangerous for society” and should be punished. Hedi Sahly, Shams’ vice president, received nearly 200 death threats each day, prompting him to flee the country out of fear for his safety. ...

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