The case of a 22-year-old student sentenced to one year in prison for engaging in “homosexual relations” has finally sparked public debate on same-sex relations in Tunisia. Yesterday, the Minister of Justice Mohamed Salah Ben Aissa made a ground-breaking public call for the decriminalization of same-sex relations.
A court in Sousse convicted the man, known under the pseudonym Marwan, on 22 September after forcing him to undergo an anal examination to establish “proof” of anal sex. Amnesty International considers people who are arrested and detained solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity to be prisoners of conscience.
On 6 September, police had summoned Marwan in relation to the murder of a man in Sousse. When he denied any involvement in the crime, but admitted to having sex with the victim reportedly after the police threatened to bring a murder charge against him, he was charged with “sodomy” under Article 230 of the Penal Code which carries a maximum three-year prison sentence. The article also criminalizes “lesbianism” although it is rarely used to detain lesbian women.