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Article 230 of the Penal Code of 1913 (largely modified in 1964) decrees imprisonment
of up to three years for sodomy between consenting adults…The Tunisian government tightly censors
the internet and in addition to blocking sites containing political opposition;
Tunisia also filters pornography and gay-related content.
Gay life (?) in Hammamet, Tunisia: Trip Advisor.com forum postings:
Q: At one club I saw Tunisian Men all dancing with each other (very closely and looked very gay). I was confused about what I was seeing…?
A: It is very similar to Indian and Muslim culture, as homosexuality is illegal and often seen not to exist therefore the men are very affectionate with each other as it is seen as ‘safe’ i.e. they couldn’t possible be gay as it is impossible and/or illegal. It takes some getting used to, as it can appear ‘gay’ when it is genuinely not.
Correspondence to GlobalGayz.com from a European resident of Tunisia:
"Tunisia is by far the most open and liberated Arab society towards homosexuality but always in unofficial and private way as is it still against the law. There is a delicate balance between what is done and what is said about homosexuality in Arab countries that many westerners do not understand. It is not hypocrisy, but respect for other people feelings. Except the usual 5-10% of the populaton, who are usually gay or lesbian worldwide, the vast majority of Tunisians are straight but indulge in occasional homosexual relations especially with foreigners. If you call them gay you will get an angry response, and rigthfully so. There are some cafés and bar where some gay tourists hang around but there you get there only the worst husslers and you pay for what you get. To meet genuine Tunisian just stroll down a street or sit in a café and let your eyes roll. It wont take long to make a contact. But be careful this year there have been already 4 or 5 westerners gays killed…"
31 January 2011 – LGBT Asylum News
Can Tunisian gays be optimistic about the ‘Jasmine Revolution’?
by Sébastien Letard
Interview. After 23 years of dictatorship, the revolution of Jasmine and the departure of President Ben Ali gave hope a wind of freedom in Tunisia. The Tunisian director Mehdi Ben Attia gives his point of view. As in most Arab countries, homosexuality is banned in Tunisia. Since 1913, the Tunisian Criminal Code punishes "sodomy between consenting adults" three years in prison, although in fact the gay community enjoys relative freedom. The Revolution Will it improve things? TÊTU asked the Tunisian director Mehdi Ben Attia if he believes this wind of freedom will also benefit gays and lesbians in Tunisia. Entretien. Maintenance.
TÊTU: In your film, The Edge, released in May 2010, wanted to show you a happy homosexual. Do you consider that homosexuality is more accepted in Tunisia than in other Arab or Muslim?
Mehdi Ben Attia: Yes, it is a social fact relatively more visible and more accepted in Tunisia. However, there are laws. They are little used but they exist. And it is mostly the company is conservative. For 7 or 8 years, I feel that is emerging gay scene. There are pockets of tolerance, first in the arts and culture and in some cities. But for the rest of society, they are very frowned upon practice.
TÊTU: But then, what is tolerated? What is frowned upon?
Mehdi Ben Attia: The problem in Tunisia as in Morocco, is taking the floor. Somehow we are told "Do what you want, but not care us peace!" The real person, it does not have homosexual is to say gay. That is so not a custom they do not see gays as they nose. Two men living together, it does not shock. But they should claim nothing. Shut up! It’s quite strange.
TÊTU: Do you think that eventually, the revolution of Jasmine could lead to more rights for homosexuals Tunisian?
Mehdi Ben Attia: Frankly, I want to be very careful. I never thought to attend current events, the Tunisian people rises. And if that happens, I thought it would be with the Islamists. So I’m low profile. However, today I am optimistic. In the demonstrations, the main slogan was not "Allah Akbar!" Or "Bread!" But "job, freedom and national dignity!" It’s very political. Do not tell stories, gay rights, nobody notices. But there is a strong demand for freedom, to breathe, against censorship. A favorable climate. For example, my film was banned in Tunisia. But I hope it will soon be released. That might be a good indicator of change.
TÊTU: You said, part of society is very conservative. There is also an Islamist party that is expected to return to the political scene. Is there not also a risk of regression?
Mehdi Ben Attia: Throughout my life, Tunisia has been a country without freedom. The reason given was the Islamist threat. We realized it was still good. So not! I hate this ideology, but they do not scare me. The mass of Tunisians is quite homophobic, either voluntarily or unconsciously, but we begin to see a pioneering pro-gay rights and more westernized. Do not forget that a tenth of Tunisians living in Europe. Where we take the habits of freedom that are reported in his luggage when going home.
It is a historic moment where you can borrow one way or another. The claims of freedom are strong in Tunis. One can imagine that after the gay rights movement in a Tunisian movida. But there may also have a mistrust of instability with the determination to find a strong man. In all cases we will never return to a regime like that of Ben Ali. All the fear accumulated in recent years has transformed into courage. So I’m cautiously optimistic.
18 mars 2011 – YAGG
Ce soir à la télé: « Du sida et des hommes », la Tunisie d’avant la révolution face au virus – Tonight on TV: AIDS and Men" documentary–Tunisia’s efforts against HIV
Tourné avant la révolution qui a conduit à la chute du dictateur Ben Ali, Du sida et des hommes, diffusé ce vendredi, à 22h, en clair, sur PinkTV, est le portrait passionnant d’une jeunesse tunisienne en manque de travail et d’information sur la santé et celui d’un pays qui refuse de voir la réalité du sida en face.
Au fil du documentaire, la réalisatrice Élodie Colomar interviewe des personnes atteintes, des médecins ou des responsables d’association. Elle suit longuement Jimmy, séropositif depuis les années 80 et qui met toute son énergie à informer et à éduquer à la prévention.
Le Désenchantement Des Jeunes
Même si ce n’est pas le sujet du film, le désenchantement des jeunes, leur demande d’informations dans un pays où celle-ci est censurée, le poids des coutumes et de la religion, font mieux comprendre ce qui a pu se passer durant les événements du début d’année.
Tournée entre 2007 et 2010, ce documentaire permet aussi de voir des actions de prévention et donne la parole à des hommes gays qui parlent à visage découvert. Dans un pays arabe, c’était déjà une gageure de réussir à les faire témoigner. Autre séquence poignante, celle durant laquelle des élèves d’une école expliquent que les responsables ne souhaitent pas qu’un séropositif vienne témoigner de sa vie avec le sida.
Le tourisme sexuel semble jouer un rôle non négligeable dans la propagation du virus et Onusida estime que la prostitution, féminine et masculine, est responsable de 20% des contaminations. Onusida estime également que 8700 personnes vivent avec le VIH en Tunisie alors que les chiffres officiels sont de 3000 séropositifs déclarés.
May. 21, 2011 – AP
Gays in Egypt, Tunisia worry about post-revolt era
by David Crary, AP
Cairo (AP) — While many of their compatriots savor a new political era, gays in Egypt and Tunisia aren’t sharing the joy, according to activists who wonder if the two revolutions could in fact make things worse for an already marginalized community. In both countries, gays and their allies worry that conservative Islamists, whose credo includes firm condemnation of homosexuality, could increase their influence in elections later this year. "Our struggle goes on — it gets more and more difficult," Tunisian gays-rights and HIV-AIDS activist Hassen Hanini wrote to The Associated Press in an email. "The Tunisian gay community is still seeking its place in society in this new political environment."
In much of the world, the push for gay rights has advanced inexorably in recent years. Countries which now allow same-sex marriage range from Portugal to South Africa to Argentina. Throughout the Arab world, however, homosexual conduct remains taboo — it is punishable by floggings, long prison terms and in some cases execution in religiously conservative Saudi Arabia, and by up to three years imprisonment in relatively secular Tunisia. Iraq and Yemen each experienced a surge of killings of gays two years ago.
In Egypt, consensual same-sex relations are not prohibited as such, but other laws — those prohibiting "debauchery" or "shameless public acts" — have been used to imprison gay men in recent years. Ten years ago, Egypt attracted worldwide attention — including criticism from international human rights groups — when 52 men were arrested in a police raid on a Nile boat restaurant/disco and accused of taking part in a gay sex party. After a highly publicized trial in an emergency state security court, 23 of the men were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of one to five years for immoral behavior and contempt of religion.
The case caused a storm in Egypt as some newspapers published names and photos of the defendants in graphic stories. At the start of the trial, many defendants covered their faces with towels in the presence of photographers. In 2008, four HIV-positive Egyptians were sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of the "habitual practice of debauchery." Human rights groups warned that the case could undermine HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in Egypt. U.S.-based Human Rights Watch — which monitors discrimination against gays as part of wide-ranging global activities — says there are no organizations in Egypt specifically identified as gay-rights advocates.
"There’s been no movement on this issue in Egypt since the revolution nor is there likely to be any improvement in the short-term," said Heba Morayef, the main Egypt researcher for Human Rights Watch. Some of the void in advocacy is filled by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which in a decade of existence has defended people entangled in various anti-gay prosecutions as part of its broader civil-liberties agenda. The group’s executive director, Hossam Bahgat, said the once-common use of entrapment to arrest gays has subsided in recent years. But he said anti-gay debauchery trials still take place occasionally.
2011 July – PubMed.gov
Coming Out à l’oriental: Maghrebi-French Performances of Gender, Sexuality, and Religion.
by Provencher DM. – a Department of Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication , The University of Maryland Baltimore County , Baltimore , Maryland , USA.
In this article, I examine issues of gender, sexuality, and religion for North African (Maghrebi)-French men in contemporary France. I introduce performance artist-photographer "2Fik," one of the Maghrebi-French research subjects from my 2010 fieldwork, and examine excerpts of his particular coming out story to his parents and situate it in relation to recent work on homosexuality in the housing projects of France’s banlieues [suburban neighborhoods] ( Chaumont, 2009 ; Naït-Balk, 2009 ). The interviewee’s narrative interweaves a variety of discourses and imagery that help distinguish his experience from those found in those publications as well as in recent scholarship on sexuality, citizenship, and transnationalism ( Cruz-Malavé & Manalansan, 2000 ; Hayes, 2000 ; Leap & Boellstorff, 2004 ; Patton & Sánchez-Eppler, 2000 ; Provencher, 2007a ).
I argue that 2Fik’s story and photography provide him a unique voice that draws on feminist and queer perspectives-informed by both reformed Islam and contemporary Western values-to "decline" ( Rosello, 1998 ) and rewrite longstanding stereotypes of Islam in France. In fact, by acting as a "citizen-photographer" ( Möller, 2010 ), 2Fik successfully declines stereotypes including the absent Muslim father, the veiled woman, and the symbolic violence associated with heteronormativity and traditional masculinity in Maghrebi-French families.
3 August 2011 – PinkNews
HIV ‘epidemics’ emerging in gay men in North Africa and the Middle East
by PinkNews.co.uk Staff Writer
New research suggests that HIV epidemics are emerging in North Africa and the Middle East among men who have sex with men (MSM). According to researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Pakistan and Tunisia are seeing high rates of infection in gay and bisexual men. Across the region, homosexuality is illegal or frowned upon in most countries.
The researchers said it was a common belief that little or no data is held on MSM HIV transmissions in North Africa and the Middle East. However, they discovered some reliable and previously unpublished sources. Researcher Ghina Mumtaz told Reuters: “It’s like the black hole in the global HIV map – and this has triggered many controversies and debates around the status of the epidemic.” She added: “Men who have sex with men are still a highly hidden population in the region and there is stigma around this behaviour, but some countries have been able to find creative ways of dealing with the problem and at the same time avoiding the social, cultural and political sensitivities.”
The research, published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine journal, urged countries to do more to address MSM infections.
15 November 2011 – LGBT Asylum News
Are LGBT Tunisians about to face a dark Arab winter?
Source: Gay Middle East
by Tarek, GME Tunisia Editor
Here in Tunisia we had our Arab Spring which I supported – we brought the dictator Ben Ali down. The summer passed and autumn came, recently, on the 24th of October we had elections. The Islamic Ennahda Party won 90 seats, making it the largest bloc in the 217-member assembly. Although they obtained only 25% of votes, they have 41% of seats. This is due to the dispersion of other political groups and independents which means, 35% of votes were lost.
The Islamic party kept reassuring it will protect religious and ethnic minorities and never question the achievements of Tunisian women. Homosexuality is a taboo that was not discussed by any party, and even less by the Ennahda. For example, the humanist parties like the “Modern Democratic Pole” just promised to protect individual freedoms and change the laws in order to be conform to international conventions. This party’s sympathizers were accused, mostly by islamists who wants to weaken them, of being pro gays, lesbians and prostitutes because they defended basic human rights. It got only 5 seats.
An executive member of the populist Party “Ennahdha” recently promised dignity for gays, this declaration was very welcomed by the foreign media and some LGBT associations. Paradoxically, it was very frightening for LGBT Tunisians to know that this party, with its violent history, will be interested in sexual orientation and rights. Tunisian gays would prefer stay out of the political debate because they know the Islamic leaders are just manipulating and hiding their real intentions.
Mr Riadh Chaibi who promised gays dignity is a “political scientist” known for his anti-liberalism, he is considered as a conservative but moderate member. But let us return for a minute to the Ennahda Party; the gap between what the leaders of the party are saying to the international media compared with the very conservative discourse they have in their meetings in Tunisia is huge. This gap is even more important between leaders and sympathizers. The majority of sympathizers of the Ennahdha are influenced by extremist religious theories, and the party is torn between satisfying the extremist voters and having the confidence of moderate ones. This is the main reason of the contradictory declarations of the leaders and often of the same person who could say something and the opposite at the same time.
Therefore, what Mr Riadh Chaibi said seems to be more a personal point of view than an official position of his party. This is what we are getting used to for months now from the leaders of the party. In addition to that, the titles are very attractive but the content is a little less. Mr Chaibi, who is far from being the spokesman of the party as mentioned in the article, gave an analysis of a situation that is not unknown to anyone. Everyone knows the suffering of LGBT community in Tunisia. He insisted in the fact that the problem is in the non-acceptance of this category of people by society. But no solution is proposed and no willingness to change the situation is expressed. This is exactly what the party is very talented to do; hide behind the supposed will of the people only when it is consistent with their conservative ideology.
Read complete article here