Lawyer and activist Mounir Baatour could become Tunisia’s first ever gay president.
This is despite Article 230 of Tunisia’s 1913 Penal Code that says people convicted of sodomy face up to three years of imprisonment.
Last week (25 June), he announced his plans on social media to run for president. This officially makes him the first gay presidential candidate in the North African country.
He revealed he acquired the necessary approvals to run for the top position.
‘Tunisia needs a democratic agenda that can include the different identities, cultures, beliefs and languages of this country,’ he wrote on Facebook. ‘Our program aims to democratize power, by strengthening the weight of Parliament and giving more weight to local institutions.’
He then added: ‘Economically, our program targets growth of production and the real sector, job creation and the cleansing of an economy that is artificially inflated and extremely dependent on foreign investment.
‘In foreign policy — as on the domestic scene — our motto is peace,’ he wrote.
He also wrote in a later post on Facebook: ‘We are proud of the absolute equality of all Tunisians no matter what their religion, color, gender, language, sexual identity.’
The election will take place in November 2019.
Who is Mounir Baatour?
Mounir Baatour is the President of LGBTI rights group Association Shams. It’s a non-government organization seeking to campaign for the rights of sexual and gender minorities.
In May this year, he hit out at the Tunisian Government for trying to get the group shut down.
‘The judicial harassment against our association has no legal basis and reflects the homophobia of the Tunisian state and its will to discriminate and stigmatize the LGBT community, which is already marginalized,’ Baatour told the Guardian.
‘Such harassment makes our work difficult and creates a climate of tension and fear among the team working for our association.’
Thankfully, the Tunis Court of Appeal upheld its 2016 ruling that the organization could operate legally.
In 2013, police arrested Mounir Baatour for alleged sodomy. A judge sentenced him to six months in jail.
The country’s four officially recognized LGBTI organizations all emerged following the 2011 revolution.
In January last year, the country held its first LGBTI film festival in the capital city, Tunis. LGBTI rights organization Mawjoudin (We Exist) organized the festival.
However, Shams reports that the number of people arrested under Article 230 increased significantly in 2018.
The groups said that authorities made 127 arrests last year, compared with 79 in 2017. There have been at least 22 arrests this year.