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Tunisia: LGBT Outrage at Human Rights Minister's Comments

I am Human, Mr Minister of Human Rights” was the response of the LGBT community after the homophobic statements of the Tunisian Minister of Human Rights on a private Tunisian TV channel. The minister stated that freedom of expression has limits when it comes to Tunisian queers to express themselves. He also compared homosexuality to sexual perversion and mental illness.

The Tunisian LGBT Facebook pages now share the following photograph as their page display picture. The initiative was suggested by the Facebook page of Gayday Magazine.

The LGBT community in Tunisia was angry, following the minister's statements. Tarek wrote on Gayday Magazine [ar]:

نعم، أنا المثلي… أنا المثلية
أنا الرجل يحب رجلا.. المرأة تحب مرأة
لكني أنا الإبن قرة عيني أبي الحنون، أنا البنت ملجئي عطر حضن أمي الدافئ
أنا التلميذ، العامل، العاطل، الطويل القصير… أنا الإنسان

Yes. I am Gay..I am Lesbian
I am the man who loves men.. the female who loves females.
Yet, I'm the apple of my dad's eye. I am the girl who finds a warm haven in her mother's lap.
I'm the student, the worker, the unemployed, tall, short… I am Human.

The LGBT community has received wide support since the minister's comment more than a week ago. Maybe the most prominent of these is the wide spread of the above photograph throughout Facebook and Twitter. However, such support is also challenged by some Facebook users who think that bringing up the subject on LGBT in Tunisia to solicit support will only bring about more homophobia.

On GayDay Magazine, for instance, you may find comments such as the following [fr]:

en critiquant Dilou pour ses pensées homophobes vous ne faites qu'augmenter sa côte auprès des tunisiens conservateurs qui lui donneront raison et le soutiendront encore plus!

Criticizing Dilou (the Minister) for his homophobic statements will only polish Dilou's reputation among conservative Tunisians. They will support him even more now.

Another Facebook user asked the “likers” of the page to admit their sexuality to earn the legitimacy to ask for more rights. The wall post was written in Tunisian Arabic dialect.

Nn+ama bech ki taleb bses droit ytaleb elhaja mawjouda w fardha wjoudha w 3andeha brcha rwad

If you want to ask for rights, you have to be there i.e. Tunisian queers should come out to show society that they're numerous and that there are many supporters for such a cause.

The Twittersphere was rather impartial about the subject although the few articles that were released about it were shared a few hundred times.

@lebanesegringo: @abuhatem The Minister of Human Rights himself is the one making misguided statements. This debate is long overdue. #tunisia #lgbtme #lgbt

Meanwhile, LGBT Facebook pages are fed with photographs and videos to promote tolerance between the Tunisian people and to explain that homosexuality is in fact a natural phenomenon among humans daily.

This video, from YouTube, entitled 'Open Your Heart to Gays', has been viewed more than 60,000 times:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=AJCHHy_PFak

The main Tunisian LGBT Facebook page – Tunisia Gays (Official Page) now has about 2,300 ‘likes'. It is active through its radio Tunisia Gays (Radio). Livestreams are daily and touch on many subjects such as the society's trends toward homosexuality, Gay celebrity news around the world and other news relating to Equality around the world.

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