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

Tunisia’s Democratic Gains Have Done Nothing for Its LGBT Community
Tunisians rally demanding human rights, Tunis, Tunisia, Aug. 31, 2013 (photo by Amine Ghrabi via flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0).

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.

In January, authorities suspended Shams for 30 days under murky charges that were contested by the organization and a number of human rights groups. Shams appealed the decision and resumed activities in February. But the suspension highlights the legal vulnerability of Tunisia’s LGBT community under the country’s penal code. Last December, for instance, six teenage students were given three-year prison sentences under Article 230 of the penal code, which criminalizes sodomy and homosexual acts. The defendants were also banished from their hometown of Kairouan.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article as well as three free articles per month. You'll also receive our free email newsletter to stay up to date on all our coverage:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having your own personal researcher and analyst for news and events around the globe. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 15,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • Your choice of weekly region-specific newsletters, delivered to your inbox.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review