Tunisia’s president wants to decriminalise homosexuality

A Tunisian commission has called for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the North African country.

The 230-page proposal, which was published on Wednesday, detailed the current lack of equal rights for many groups in the country.

Groups that were highlighted in the proposal included women, gay men and the wider LGBT community.

Led by the President of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi, the commission called for the removal of the death penalty in Tunisia, equal rights for women, and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Tunisian flag and LGBT flag

Tunisia has a particularly poor human rights record with regards to the LGBT community.

Homosexuality is illegal in Tunisia and punishable by a custodial sentence – and even the death penalty.

One of the main areas of concerns for gay and bisexual men in Tunisia is the ongoing practice of so-called ‘anal testing.’

Last year, the Human Rights Watch reported that Tunisia’s health authorities had issued warnings to doctors to stop carrying out this practice.

Warning to people living in Tunisia that they are able to refuse so-called “anal testing”

The internal warning came after several international organisations, including the United Nations, spoke out about non-consensual anal examinations being carried out on members of the LGBT community.

The practice has been used to collect ‘proof’ of somebody’s sexuality, subsequently resulting in men who are suspected of having anal sex with another man being prosecuted.

Without any medical evidence to underpin this practice, as well as serious ethical concerns, international human rights organisation All Out began a campaign earlier this year to ban anal testing in Tunisia.

Bochra Belhaj Hmida has been advocating for the rights of LGBT Tunisians (Mosaique FM)

Speaking with Le Point Afrique, Tunisian politician and lawyer, Bochra Belhaj Hmida said that the new presidential commission proposal was an opportunity to remove the country’s homophobic Article 230.

“We are asking for the banning of anal testing, so that it can no longer used as proof,” she said.

The politician said that there were two options when it came to the future of the current anti-gay law: Either the complete decriminalisation of homosexuality, or that those convicted of same-sex sexual activity should face a fine of 500 Tunisian dinar (or around £150).

Speaking with French newspaper, LiberationBelhaj Hmida said she is “convinced” that there would be a new proposed law ready to be voted in by parliament this August.

Despite these proposals, societal attitudes in Tunisia still makes it an extremely hostile environment for members of the LGBT community.