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Tunisia told: repeal anti-gay law and stop its misuse as a political weapon

The Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities has called for the repeal of Tunisia’s sodomy law, which the group said is used as a political weapon
Yamina Thabet, the head of the Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities, has called for the repeal of Tunisia’s sodomy law, which the group said is used as a political weapon

Yamina Thabet, president of the association, appealed to Tunisia’s government, led by the Islamist Ennahda party, to repeal the country’s anti-sodomy law and to stop its misuse in intimidating political opposition.

The appeal comes as a response to the arrest of lawyer Baatour Mounir, head of the Liberal Party of Tunisia (PLT).

Mounir was arrested last week after an incident on March 31 at the Sheraton Tunis Hotel, where hotel staff ‘allegedly’ ‘caught’ him and a young man having sex.

Pro government websites and Facebook pages were first to spread the news through highly inflammatory and graphic descriptions of Mounir being a ‘receptive’ sodomite, as means to discredit and humiliate his image.

Thabet said, it is ‘rare that people are arrested for sodomy because it implies a flagrant offense. But for there to be flagrant, the person must be monitored’.

Article 230 of the Tunisian Criminal Code which makes consensual sex between members of the same sex a criminal offence, punishable with six months to three years imprisonment.

Thabet stated: ‘This law is used to intimidate whoever is in opposition to those in power’, she said.

She also remarked, that it is ‘rare that people are arrested for sodomy because it implies a flagrant offense. But for there to be flagrant, the person must be monitored’.

According to the Ministry source, however, Baatour was arrested appeared in court with the charge with the Tunisian legal equivalent of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and assault.

The charges were rejected and denied by Mounir, the PLT, and deemed highly suspect by human rights advocates.

Fadi, editor and founder of GayDay Magazine, Tunisia’s LGBT online Magzine, told Gay Star News: ‘Mounir Baatour is most probably a scapegoat to discredit more liberal opposition to the ruling Ennahda party who is preparing its ground for the elections that are supposed to take place this autumn.

‘The story smells like a plot because it doesn't really make sense to use the most expensive hotel in the city for a casual sex night.

‘There are plenty of other alternatives.

‘Besides, using the same hotel where the former Tunisian minister of foreign affairs has been “caught” with a lady, generating a scandal and political power struggles, just smells like a repeat of a story and a set-up.

‘Meanwhile, Mounir’s case is likely to go unheard because of the shame was encouraged by Ennahda supporters.

‘This is all the result of an ex-colonial law that interferes with people's private parts. Gay or not, this is a shameful cheap political practice to discredit opponents.

‘In today's context, power merit should be based on solid arguments and not firing morals and sensitive issues.

‘I was surprised to read in the Guardian, of all places, an article by Seamus Mline, singing the praise of Ennahda while the paper failed to mention this case.

‘Is this because it doesn’t fit ideologically with image that some would like to project of that party?’

Other LGBT Tunisian activists have also joined the call to repeal the law and fight against its use as a political weapon.

Tunisia's minister for human rights Samir Dilou has consistently rejected calls from activists and even Amnesty International to repeal of Article 230, saying that being gay is a disease that needs treatment, not a human right.

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