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Tunisia’s Justice Minister backs repeal of gay sex ban

Tunisia’s Justice Minister backs repeal of gay sex ban

A case where a 22-year-old student was sentenced to a year’s jail after his same-sex relationship was uncovered as part of a murder investigation has prompted Tunisian Justice Minister Mohamed Salah Ben Aissa to comment on the future of the country’s anti-sodomy law.

The unnamed student was arrested on 6 September in the resort city of Sousse after his number was found on the body of a man he had been sleeping with.

He denied any involvement in the killing but confessed his relationship with the deceased to explain his connection to him.

Authorities believed his story after subjecting him to a medical examination but handed him over to prosecutors as a result of his confession.

The case provoked outcry by human rights groups both inside and outside Tunisia including Human Rights Watch (HRW), prompting the group’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director Eric Goldstein to call out the Tunisian Government over the continued use of the law.

‘The Tunisian government should not be prosecuting people for private and consensual sexual acts,’ Goldstein said on Monday.

‘If Tunisia truly aspires to be a regional leader on human rights, it should lead the way in decriminalizing homosexual conduct.’

Goldstein also warned against the use of so-called medical tests to ‘prove’ a person’s homosexuality.

‘Medical professionals who participate in forced anal examinations of people suspected of homosexuality violate medical ethics and facilitate serious miscarriages of justice,’ Goldstein said.

Reacting on a non-state owned radio station, Justice Minister Mohamed Salah Ben Aissa addressed the issue, saying he was personally in favor of scrapping the law.

‘My problem is Article 230 … Nothing can justify infringement on private life,’ Ben Aissa said, according to reports.

Consensual sex acts between males in Tunisia can attract sentences of up to three years in prison.