The movement for LGBT rights in Tunisia was dealt a heavy blow last week after six young men were imprisoned for three years on sodomy charges. The case has thrown human rights in the nation into the spotlight once again, especially as the men were made to undergo unscientific “medical” tests to find proof of their crime.
The men were detained after neighbors “denounced” them, according to their lawyer. The sentences handed down at a court in the city of Kairouan are the maximum allowed by law.
Private and consensual acts of sodomy are illegal under Article 230 of the Tunisian penal code. This sort of law is not unusual in the Islamic world, with homosexuality being illegal in most Muslim-majority countries and punishable by death in seven.
In September, a Tunisian court sentenced a man known only as Marwen to one year in prison for homosexuality after a “medical”exam. His case became a rallying point for gay rights protesters in the country, who launched a social media campaign behind the hashtag #FreeMarwen and raised important publicity. Tunisian actor and writer Mehdi Ben Attia also expressed his support for Marwen.
Tunisia’s first LGBT rights group, Shams, had planned a protest outside a parliament building in Tunis last week but were reportedly deterred by police, who said “this perversion cannot be allowed.”
According to AFP, Marwen was released in November pending an appeal hearing this week. But the recent case in Kairouan is evidence that LGBT rights in the country still have a long way to go.
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