It was in Tunisia that the Arab Springs caught fire, quite literally, when Mohamed Bouazizi ignited himself in front of the government office in his hometown. Yet, not everyone in the country has been able to bask in these new democratic reforms. LGBT Individuals in Tunisia still face discrimination and brutality today, despite the country opening its doors to “democracy.”
What many people in Arab Springs countries hoped would happen is that Islamic parties would come into play and open the door for religious tolerance. However, according to Time magazine, LGBT individuals did not share this sentiment, fearing that Islamic rulers would instead use them as “sacrificial lambs,” or making empty promises in order to get popular support (Davies). Homophobia has been declared at an all-time high in the country by several human rights groups, and LGBT individuals all across the spectrum are subjected to all sorts of different punishments. There have been several efforts by the LGBT community to fight back against the government, but they have been halted due to government pressure and/or threats of violence against protesters by the government. Article 230 is the penal code used in Tunisia to criminalize same-sex relationships, and the government has abused the law (Mzalout).
Homosexual men face a great amount of abuse in their home country, including “beatings, forced anal examinations, and routine humiliating treatment (“Tunisia: Men Prosecuted for Homosexuality”).” Lesbians in Tunisia, like many women in Middle Eastern countries are oppressed, according to the Guardian, as Tunisia is a traditionally patriarchal society. One lesbian woman was allegedly punched in a city street for simply having shorter hair,something that can also be construed as transphobia, the fear of breaking gender-norms. (Cordall). In May 2015, the Tunisian government authorized the country’s first LGBT rights organization, known as Shams. A smear campaign ensued almost immediately after, however, making the whole thing rather pointless (Piser). An article on Heinrich Boll Stiftung goes into more detail, describing Sham’s battle with Article 230 (Mzalout). Though the government has limited Sham’s effectiveness, they have never backed down, and have been campaigning for rights in Tunisia ever since the Springs (Cordall)(Mzalout).
Joshua Faulks is a student in the Professional Writing major at Champlain College, under the tutelage of Professor Rob Williams, Ph.D., Champlain College Faculty Advisor.
Cordall, Simon Speakman. “Tunisia’s Lesbian Community Mobilises against Deep-rooted Prejudice | Simon Speakman Cordall.” The Guardian. September 02, 2015. Accessed October 31, 2016 theguardian.com/global-development/2015/sep/02/tunisia-lesbian-community-prejudice-chouf-article-226-230.
Davies, Catriona. “Will Gays Be ‘sacrificial Lambs’ in Arab Spring?” CNN. June 13, 2011. Accessed October 31, 2016. cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/05/27/gay.rights.arab.spring/.
@hrw. “Tunisia: Men Prosecuted for Homosexuality.” Human Rights Watch. N.p., 30 Mar. 2016. Web. 17 Oct. 2016. hrw.org/news/2016/03/29/tunisia-men-prosecuted-homosexuality
Mzalouat, Haïfa. “LGBT Rights in Tunisia: The Fight Will Be Televised | Heinrich Böll Foundation.” Heinrich Böll Foundation. June 17, 2016. Accessed October 31, 2016. boell.de/en/2016/06/17/lgbt-rights-tunisia-fight-will-be-televised.
Piser, Karina. “Tunisia’s Democratic Gains Have Done Nothing for Its LGBT Community.” Tunisia’s Democratic Gains Have Done Nothing for Its LGBT Community. N.p., 27 Sept. 2016. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.