Homosexuals in Tunisia are suffering from homophobia. It is very difficult for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transexuals to lead a normal life. They are considered as second class citizens if not worse. For example, they cannot - like heterosexual people - expose themselves with their partners in public places, which is unfortunately very revolting. After all, they know that if ever they will get caught, they will be punished by law or even beaten to death.
There is an article in the penal code from 1913 that states the fact that homosexuals are to be punished by law up to 3 years of prison for sodomy even between consentient adults. Even though pursuits are sort of rare, harassments are numerous and even get to physical violence in most cases.
Tunisia is still on its way to install a democracy, so the concept isn’t exactly clear at the moment. But, it‘s a work in progress. As when it comes to homosexuality overall, I am convinced that it would take more time than the other issues in play because it is considered an absolute big taboo.
The average Tunisian citizen is homophobic. For example, I know a lot of people that got insulted publicly, and that is something that happens on a regular basis of their daily lives. It is really sad, heartbreaking.
The thing is that in Tunisia, people are not exposed to sexuality and sex as people from other countries are. It is considered to be a taboo, a matter that should not be mentioned nor discussed. For instance, we do not have sexual education in our schools. Plus, there is the religious effect that plays a very important role adding to their homophobia.
Indeed, there are a few associations that are full of militants and activists trying to put an end to the penalisation of homosexuality.The best known association is called "Shams" which means „Sun“ and it is doing a great job. In fact, this association even succeeded in prohibiting anal tests in Tunisia a few months ago, which is a great accomplishment, in my opinion, towards this fight and struggle against hatred and intolerance. This association won also the "GALAS LGBT award 2017" in Dublin. Other than that, it is launching the very first LGBTQI radio channel in Tunisia in the coming days.
A lot of bars and Clubs in Tunisia are known to be full of people of different sexual orientations. They are not called gay clubs officially, but the gay community is aware of the fact that they support them. Thus, people feel safe to go there and to be themselves without having to hide their true personalities. One of the most famous bars is actually situated in Tunis and it is an absolutely safe space. No, non-heterosexuals cannot afford to be exposed, celebrations and gay flags are rather hidden in their houses, and celebrations of that sort are discreet for their own protection.
This is a little tricky. Because, as I already mentioned, non-heterosexuals and people who do not conform are struggling already. So, I advice your friend to be very careful. For example, if she wants to go out of the hotel she is staying at, she better knows exactly where to go and whom to stay with. People can be very cruel and hateful.Interviewer Marlene Schönberger (left on the photo), Photographer Claus Sixt, published 13th of November 2017.
Khdija lives and studies English for communication in Tunis. She is very interested in social issues, equality, women’s rights and feminism. She is convinced that things have to change in Tunisia.