The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 43 – Tunisia

The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 43 – Tunisia


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. 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. 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. 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. 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. “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. 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.

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