Ever since the 2011 spring revolution, Tunisia, a small country in North Africa, has witnessed a progressive improvement in democracy, stability, safety and rights. Yet, sadly and unfortunately, these rights have been limited for some minorities, including the LGBT community.
As affirmed in the constitution, homosexual acts are considered sinful and unacceptable according to the customs and traditions of our Muslim country. However, the people’s view of the LGBT community is divided into two major camps: those who are against it and believe that this community does not represent our identity and religion, and those who believe that gender and sexuality are personal rights and no one has the right to interfere with them.
|Tunis, Tunisia – The train station – Wang Sing|
Like many other countries, in particular Arab ones, Tunisia is no exception when it comes to criminalizing homosexual acts.
The state justification for suppressing the LGBT community is based on the sodomy provision in Article 230 of the Tunisian Penal Code, which states that any sexual act by two adults of the same sex will be punished with up to 3 years of imprisonment.
Many LGBT community activists have made a huge effort to repeal Article 230, highlighting the fact the Tunisian sodomy law is a relic of the colonial era, and it was not part of the previous Tunisian Penal Code (the Qanun Al Jinayat Wal Ahkam Al Urfya) that was adopted in the 1860s. The former did not incorporate any provisions that criminalize homosexuality.
|Sousse, Tunisia – In the Medina quarter – DD Coral|
Simultaneously, activists found that Article 230 violates some of the main principles of the Tunisian constitution, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, invasion and breach of individual privacy and most importantly, a violation of human dignity by performing an “anal” test on a person in question.
What we witness on the streets is a reality. The LGBT community is fighting for their rights every single day, and its members continually face brutal and corrupt police officers as well as random and unreasonable arrests.
|El Jem, Tunisia – On the street – Photosounds|
It is commonplace for the police to arrest or fine members of the LGBT community, and no one is in a position to oppose them unless you want to get arrested as well. Furthermore, the media acts as a megaphone for hate speech directed at gay, lesbian or transgender individuals. One of the main highlights in Tunisian television is provocation, which includes violence and other cruel means of disparaging this community. And even though these televisions stations have received warrants, no official or formal reaction stops them from inciting hatred again.
The absence of legal work, coupled with representatives and officials adding to the antagonistic speech and discouraging discourse with the LGBT community, has been helping make these acts the new norm in our society. In 2015 there was a very prominent and leading politician who stated that the famous “Spring Revolution” was a revolution for freedom and not to establish organizations that support gays, adding that homosexuals are not safe for our society and should be criminalized and assailed.
|Matmata, Tunisia – The village – Ray-of-the-future|
As you can tell here, many officials and politicians in our country are not supportive, the police force continues to violate the rights of the LGBT community, and the general public, especially the older generation, does not support them.
The only glimmer of hope that we have can be found in Tunisian youth, activists and advocacy groups, i.e. associations that defend human rights in general. They are the only way to mobilize public opinion to accept this minority among us. Advocacy campaigns and demonstrations have been playing an important part in our daily lives. It has changed the way people speak out in defense of their rights and freedoms, and, thanks to these campaigns, we have made some progress when it comes to democracy and transparency. Tunisian youth and civil society can play a major role in the acceptance of the LGBT community as part of the whole. And in fact, this is what has been happening in recent years. Many advocates and youth activists have taken to the street to demonstrate the struggle that this minority has faced for decades and how times are changing and we should be more tolerant and accept all genders and sexualities.
|Sousse, Tunisia – Port El Kantaoui – DD Coral|
“Upon the Shadow,” a short video by Nada Mezni Hafaiedh, was a turning point for the LGBT community in Tunisia. It shifted the focus to what these minority groups are facing and the challenges they have on a daily basis. In the 2017 Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the efforts by advocates and youth activists led the Tunisian government to officially acknowledge discrimination based on sexual orientation. This means that any sort of discrimination, resentment and encouragement for acts of hate will be considered unconstitutional and such perpetrators will be held accountable for their acts. Furthermore, no matter what sexual orientation a person has, they will enjoy full rights. These regulations are a step in the direction of potential legislative change.
|Tunisia – Students – Kekyalyaynen|
Tunisian society and Tunisian youth are increasingly woke and accept LGBT community rights and freedoms. Youth in Tunisia is socially, politically and economically engaged and present, which can have a positive impact on how things might turn out. Small victories in the name of this minority group are a significant cause for hope and inspiration.
In seeking to end any kind of discrimination, youths and activists must never stop in their fight to overcome the daily challenges of achieving institutional reform so their rights and freedoms will be recognized. Guaranteeing a normal and better life for LGBT Tunisians will require immense awareness and tolerance that cannot be achieved in a short period of time. Ignoring or refusing to accept different mindsets should be changed for the sake of all.
Snapshot 1: Tunis, Tunisia – A couple at night – Elsie Photography (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 2: Tunis, Tunisia – The train station – Wang Sing (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 3: Sousse, Tunisia – In the Medina quarter – DD Coral (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 4: El Jem, Tunisia – On the street – Photosounds (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 5: Matmata, Tunisia – The village – Ray-of-the-future (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 6: Sousse, Tunisia – Port El Kantaoui – DD Coral (Shutterstock)
Snapshot 7: Tunisia – Students – Kekyalyaynen (Shutterstock)
Cinemblem voiceover: Gia Kalene Mai
Cinemblem: Perypatetik youtube channel
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes
Ahmed, Amina. Growing up with Abuse: A Life of Extremes – Lebanon. April 2019.
Alencar, Joana. Lack of Social Trust – Brazil. January 2019.
Antonyan, Hayk. Polarization Does Not Equal Extreme – Armenia. September 2019.
Awdejuk, Pawel. Pole-arization – Poland. June 2019.
Baccino, Alejandra. Polarization within Ourselves – South America. January 2019.
Bondarenko, Evgeny. What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Ukraine. May 2019.
Butt, Kashif. Shrinking Space for Dialog – Pakistan. October 2019.
Cannarella, Daniela. A Past-Present Dicotomia – Italy. June 2019.
Casas, Marilin Guerrero Casas. Balance – Cuba. May 2019.
Cordido, Veronica. Hanging by Extremes – Venezuela. January 2019.
Dastan, S.A. Polarization and the Epidemic of Extremity – Turkey. August 2019.
Deiana, Sarah. The Unbearable Weight of Being a Woman – Italy. September 2019.
Escandell, Andrea da Silva. The Illogic of Extremes – Uruguay. May 2019.
Escobar, Christian. Between the Sky and the Earth: Looking for Love – Columbia. October 2019.
Gomez, Javier. The Canyon Inside Us – Argentina. July 2019.
Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Extremism Is Now the New Hype? – Spain. February 2019.
Husseini, Maha. Bilingual Par Excellence – Canada. August 2019.
Israyelyan, Mania. Polarized Within Ourselves – Armenia. June 2019.
Julber, Lillian. Difficult to Understand – Uruguay. July 2019.
Kanunova, Nigina. Role of Polarization in the Life of an Individual and Society – Tajikistan. July 2019.
López, Virginia Sanmartín. Why Live on an Edge? – Spain. August 2019.
Montano, Osvaldo. Progress in the Face of Polarization – Bolivia. February 2019.
Mwangi, Kenn. Religious Extremity and Exploitation – Kenya. October 2019.
Pavicevic, Nikolina. The Law of Silence – Montenegro. September 2019.
Protić, Aleksandar. Linguistic Balkanization as a Means of Polarization – The Balkans. June 2019.
Ranaldo, Mary. Social Polarization – Italy. April 2019.
Ray, Sanjay Kumar. At the Crossroads – India. August 2019.
Romano, Mavi. Censorship and Cultural Survival in a World without Gods – Spain. January 2019.
Çakir, Peren. Needing a Sustainable Future in the Midst of Political Polarization – Argentina and Turkey. September 2019.
Sariñana, Alejandra Gonzalez. Student Movements – Mexico. March 2019.
Sekulić, Jelena. The Polarizacija of Serbian Culture – Serbia. June 2019.
Sem, Sebastião. Brandos Costumes – Portugal. July 2019.
Sepi, Andreea. A World of Victims and Perpetrators? – Germany and Romania. February 2019.
Sevunts, Nane. The Era To Close – Armenia. March 2019.
Skobic, Alexandar. The Loss of Identity – The Balkans. April 2019.
Sitorus, Rina. Polarization in Politics: All a Cebong or Kampret – Indonesia. March 2019.
Spirito, Julieta. A Thought about Polarized Insecurity – Argentina. April 2019.
Valenzuela, Monica. Adults and Children – Peru. April 2019.
Vuka. Extreme Immunity to Functional Tax and Judicial System – Serbia. March 2019
Wallis, Toni. Walls and Resettlement – South Africa and Angola. February 2019.
Williams, Jazz Carl. Unfinished Episodes – Spain. May 2019.
Zakharova, Anastasiya. Feminism – Russia. August 2019.
CW 44 – Estonia – Margot Arula
CW 45 – Ghana – Kwasi Amankwah Awuah
CW 46 – Dominican Republic – Aura De Los Santos
CW 47 – Montenegro – Nikolina Pavicevic
CW 48 – America – Talia Stotts
CW 49 – Philippines – Kristian Uusitalo
CW 50 – Italy – Martha Corzo
CW 51 – Hungary – Zoltan Monar
CW 52 – Syria/UAE/Egypt – Ahmed Ibrahim
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed