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False marriage claims in Tunisia have led to anti-LGBT+ attacks

False marriage claims in Tunisia have led to anti-LGBT+ attacks

  • LGBT+ Tunisians denounce reports that country has recognized a same-sex marriage.
Graffiti in Tunisia calls for the end of Article 230.

Reports of Tunisia becoming the first Arab country to recognise a same-sex marriage have put LGBT+ people in danger.

Tunisian LGBT+ organization Mawjoudin – We Exist – told GSN the reports are wrong and ‘disappointing’. They admit that officials in Tunisia may have made an administrative mistake.

But they say Tunisia did not recognize a same-sex marriage as legitimate. And they say those who circulated the story are just trying to grab headlines.

Moreover, they said the reports, including in international and some LGBT+ media, have caused ‘a wave of queerphobic speech, attacks and bullying’.

The case involves a Frenchman aged 31 and a Tunisian man aged 26. Both have remained anonymous for their safety.

The marriage took place in France. But Tunisian officials allegedly noted it in the birth certificate of the Tunisian man, allowing him to obtain a visa for family reunification.

However, Minister of Local Affairs Lotfi Zitoun denied Tunisia has legally recognized the same-sex union. Indeed, he said such a marriage would be illegal.

And he said he is in the process of confirming what has happened with local authorities. Those investigations may expose the couple to danger as it may reveal their identities.

‘Recognition of this marriage is impossible’

In a statement Mawjoudin said:

‘Mawjoudin confirms that this news is false. The reality of what happened is nothing more but an administrative mistake.

‘We would like to remind [people] that same-sex relationships are still criminalized in Tunisia under Article 230 of the Penal Code. Therefore the recognition of this marriage is impossible.

‘Mawjoudin denounces the sharing of such news.’

The organization says the reports have come at a sensitive time, due to the coronavirus restrictions in the country. And they add:

‘This has led to a wave of queerphobic speech, attacks, and bullying on the queer community. This put many of them in compromised and dangerous positions while they are in confinement.

‘Mawjoudin encourages all its local, regional, and international allies and partners to not share the news and help minimize the damage as much as possible.’

Tunisian LGBT+ people enjoy no equality or protections and gay sex is punishable by three years jail.

Since the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, more people have ended up in jail under this law – Article 230.

Meanwhile police often accuse LGBT+ people under Article 226 of the Penal Code which outlaws ‘outrages against public decency’.