LGBT radio station launches in Tunisia despite fear of violence
An online LGBT radio station has launched in Tunisia, believed to be the first in the Arab world.
The LGBT group Shams set up the radio station which hopes to deal with opposition to LGBT rights in the North African state.
The Shams Rad station has the slogan “dignity, equality”, and prominent activist will present shows.
Despite the launch, the station and those running it have still been receiving threats.
Director general Bouhdid Belhadi said the station will air from breakfast time to midnight.
“We are going to touch, through the subjects we treat, everyone living on Tunisian soil,” Belhadi said.
“Our editorial policy is to talk about rights and individual freedoms in general, but the focus will be on the LGBT community.”
It aims to sensitise listeners to the daily lives and issues faced by LGBT people by using real stories.
Tunisia’s Human Rights Minister earlier this year announced that the country will no longer perform anal exams on bisexual and gay men without their consent.
The practice, which is considered to be torture by Amnesty International, is to be scrapped by the country, which is used to punish men for homosexual practice.
Previously, if an accused man refused to undergo the examination, it would be considered proof that he was gay, and could see him serve up to three years in jail.
Now, if a man refuses, he will not be punished.
“These exams can no longer be imposed by force, physical or moral, or without the consent of the person concerned,” announced Human Rights Minister Mehdi Ben Gharbia.
The move, which has been praised by Amnesty International, has been called “a step in the right direction”.
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“The commitments made by Tunisia today are a step in the right direction. But the government must swiftly implement these reforms if its promises of human rights progress are to be realised,” said Heba Morayef, North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International.
However, the impending “Repression of attacks against armed forces bill”, would grant security forces immunity from prosecution for unnecessary use of lethal force and criminalize criticism of police conduct, which would place LGBT people in jeapordy, according to the human rights charity.
“Tunisia’s promises to end impunity for the security forces will be meaningless if the authorities proceed with a bill that gives the security forces protection from prosecution for human rights violations,” says Morayef.
“The authorities must demonstrate they are committed to keeping the promises they have made today by scrapping this bill immediately.”
The Human Rights Minister also said that Tunisia is “committed to protecting the sexual minority from any form of stigmatization, discrimination, and violence,” but that “civil society must first be prepared” for homosexuality.