Current Affairs

Tunisian Government urged to decriminalise homosexuality

Joseph McCormick February 17, 2016
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The Tunisian Government has been urged by a group of MEPs to decriminalise homosexuality.

The European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights was told by activist Yamina Thabet, that LGBT Tunisians continue to be persecuted.

This comes despite a new Tunisian constitution which is meant to guarantee civil rights.

Former Tunisian Femen activist Amina Sboui (C) and members of Tunisian "Shams" association for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, wait before a press conference to support a 22-year-old man accused of engaging in homosexual acts and sentenced to a year in prison following an anal examination on October 3, 2015 in Tunis. The local rights groups ATSM and Shams condemned the judgement, calling anal exams "scandalous" and ask for decriminalising homosexuality by revising Article 230 of the penal code, according to which sodomy between consenting adults is punishable by up to three years in prison. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID        (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

Thabet, also a medial intern, says she has received death threats because of her activism.

Speaking to the Intergroup, she said the criminal code in Tunisia still criminalises homosexuality which is punishable with up to three years in prison.

After the 2014 Constitution was introduced, LGBT rights advocates were optimistic that human and civil rights would be respected.

A Tunisian group which campaigns for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Shams, earlier this year was ordered by the Tunisian Court to suspend its activities. 

In December a demonstration for the recognition of the human rights of LGBT people was blocked by the government.

Yamina Thabet from ATSM (Association Tunisienne de Soutien des Minorités) said: “Even though Tunisia is praised as the region’s most progressive country, human rights violations continue to take place every day”

“Why are (presumed) homosexual people still jailed, based on evidence gathered in ways which violate the constitutional right to privacy? Why are invasive anal tests still commonplace, even though torture is expressly forbidden? How can a country in which there is now a constitutional right to freedom of expression and association ban the activities of a Non-Governmental Organisation [Shams] which is working to enforce these rights? ”

“One of the main improvements of the revolution is that we can criticise this, inside Tunisia as well as outside. Freedom of speech is considered one of the most important freedoms, that has given our association the possibility of fighting this fight, and asking since 2011 for decriminalisation of homosexuality.”

Ian Duncan MEP, who invited Yamina to Brussels after a visit to Tunisia in November, commented: “Tunisia has made great strides in recent years, and is rightly proud that the ‘Tunisian Quartet’ was awarded the Noble Peace Prize just a few months ago, but there is much work left to be done.”

“Prosecuting individuals for who they are is never acceptable, and the Tunisian constitution recognises that. It is time for the justice system to catch up. I discussed this important issue with the Tunisian Prime Minister last year and will continue to press for the Constitution to be respected.

“The EU has an important role to play, indeed just next week we are debating the latest stage in the proposed EU-Tunisia free-trade deal, and I want the LGBTi community in Tunisia to know that constitutional rights mean nothing unless they are respected.”

Related topics: Africa, European Parliament, intergroup, MEP, shams, Tunisia, Tunisia

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