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Updated Apr 29, 2020

SHAMS, a Tunisia-based LGBTQ+ advocacy group, posted on its Facebook page that Tunisia had recognized a marriage contract between two men, one of Tunisian and one of French nationality, when the Tunisian man was allowed to register the marriage on his birth certificate.

 

A First for the Arab World

Speaking with the Jerusalem Post, British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said this recognition of a gay marriage was a breakthrough that would give hope to LGBTQ+ people in Tunisia, and across North Africa and the Middle East, even though it was an indirect recognition and not the legalization of same-sex marriage.

 

Achraf, a 26-year-old Tunisian gay artist, arrives to attend the opening of the second edition of the Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 22, 2019. Cries of joy and the applause of hundreds of people: the second edition of the Mawjoudin Film Festival, which aims to promote stories of sexual minorities and defend their rights, began on March 22 in a festive atmosphere. Mawjoudin (We are present), a Tunisian association defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT), organises the festival in the North African country where homosexuality remains illegal. FETHI BELAID / AFP
Achraf, a 26-year-old Tunisian gay artist, arrives to attend the opening of the second edition of the Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 22, 2019. (Fethi Belaid/AFP)

 

Defending LGBTQ+ Rights

Led by Mounir Baatour, SHAMS is a non-profit organization focused on the decriminalization of homosexuality in Tunisia, where dozens of citizens are currently imprisoned on “sodomy” charges based on Article 230 of the Penal Code of 1913, imposed by colonial authorities when Tunisia was a French protectorate.

Since its inception in May 2015, SHAMS faced increasing pressure from Tunisian authorities, until a court decision recognized its legal status on March 11, 2019. Even with social and legal pressures, Tunisia’s LGBTQ+ community has managed to persevere since the revolution in 2011, even organizing the annual Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival in Tunis since 2018. The Mawjoudin Film Festival aims to promote stories of sexual minorities and defend their rights. Mawjoudin (We are present), a Tunisian association defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT), organises the festival in the North African country.

 

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