Former Tunisian Femen activist Amina Sboui (C) and members of Tunisian "Shams" association for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, wait before a press conference to support a 22-year-old man accused of engaging in homosexual acts and sentenced to a year in prison following an anal examination on.
(photo credit: FETHI BELAID/AFP)
Tunisia’s government pledged on Thursday to cease sexually intrusive anti-LGBT procedures in order to bring the North African country’s legal system into compliance with international human-rights laws. However, homosexuality will remain a criminal offense, with a three-year prison penalty.
Volker Beck, a German Green Party MP who played a decisive role in legalizing gay marriage in Germany this year, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday: “State anal examinations are a inhuman act and violate the torture ban. Also, the ban against homosexuality violates the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Beck has demonstrated in Russia for LGBT rights.
“The EU must, in its discussions with Tunisia, press for compliance with human rights,” he said.
Amnesty International said it recently held a meeting in Tunis with Mehdi Ben Gharbia, Tunisia’s minister of relations with constitutional authorities, civil society and human rights. Responding to a recent UN human rights review, the minister said he took recommendations relating to “physical integrity very seriously.”
Amnesty wrote further on its website that the minister said authorities were also working hard to end forced anal examinations, which are regularly carried out on men suspected of engaging in homosexual relations, which the rights group said “amount to torture.”
“In this regard, Amnesty International welcomed today Tunisia’s acceptance of two recommendations to immediately cease the practice of forced anal examinations and ensure the protection of LGBTQI persons from all forms of stigmatization, discrimination and violence. However, the organization deeply regrets Tunisia’s rejection of 14 recommendations relating the decriminalization of samesex relations by repealing article 230 of the Penal Code,” it stated.
Ben Gharbia told AFP that authorities could still perform anal tests on men suspected of being gay, but “these exams can no longer be imposed by force, physical or moral, or without the consent of the person concerned.” He declined to cite a date as to when the new policy against the tests would be implemented.
He added that judges could demand that a man undergo the test, “but that person has every right to refuse, without his refusal being held up as proof of homosexuality.”
The minister said Tunisia was “committed to protecting the sexual minority from any form of stigmatization, discrimination and violence,” adding that “civil society must first be prepared” for such change in a Muslim country.
Ben Gharbia told Amnesty that was taking time to overcome the authoritarian legacy of former strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was deposed in 2011 in the first revolt of the so-called Arab Spring. Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia.
The vast majority of predominately Muslim countries have laws criminalizing gay relations. Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran are notorious for their executions of gays – Iran alone has executed 4,000-6,000 gays and lesbians since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The Post has reported on sexually violent anti-LGBT repression in Egypt and Lebanon over the years where anal inspections of men are used to determine if they are gay.