230: Being LGBT in Tunisia

230: Being LGBT in Tunisia

230 is a just a number, but in my country, it is every LGBT person’s worst nightmare.

This is the post-revolutionary Tunisia, where LGBT+ people are still being haunted by the Tunisian government.

Article 230 of the penal code condemns male and female homosexuality with a sentence of up to 3 years of imprisonment. Furthermore, every arrested LGBT+ person unwillingly undergoes a rectal examination to “prove” homosexual activities. In other words, being ourselves is considered a shameful crime that allows police officers to arrest people whenever they suspect their sexual identity and orientation.

“I was aware of this situation when I came out to the world, and that did not stop me from blossoming inside and out. Today, I’m so confident that I want to share my love and courage with LGBT+ people who are still shaking inside the closet.”  

My membership in Mawjoudin (we exist) NGO has allowed me to help people accept themselves and overcome their families’ reactions. Not only does the law make this task difficult, but families contribute to this as well. Families with religious backgrounds often turn their backs to their children and reject them by throwing them out of their homes. It’s so important to mention the word home. Being rejected by the ones we love is frustrating, yet it makes us strong and full of hope, and strengthens the shared vision of fighting hatred and raising awareness of LGBT rights.

Raising awareness is one of the fundamental tools to fight the violence, and to establish a new mindset within a society that tolerates repressive laws. Today, Tunisian society encourages all types of cruelty against LGBT+ people, and the Tunisian media is the biggest example of homophobic and hostile statements. LGBT+ people are discriminated in the workplace and in public establishments where they get blackmailed and harassed, even leading to unfair dismissal or job abandonment. Additionally, access to healthcare services remains limited for LGBT+ people who are victims of many forms of stigma and discrimination in hospitals.

I strongly believe that change is possible, and a better and brighter future is ahead of us. All of us are uniting our power and resources to change tyrannical laws and make of our country an example of respect in terms of human rights. NGOs are speaking loud for LGBT+ people. A Tunisian coalition for LGBT+ rights has been born recently and is ready to present its report to the higher commissioner of human rights in the universal periodic review of Tunisia. Other collectives and coalitions are organizing training sessions and governments meetings to discuss the LGBT+ current situation.

Things are moving forward despite all political, juridical and social obstacles, and I believe in the difference that we can make; the future that we can shape; and the justice that we can bring to the community.