On Saturday, plainclothes officers in Tunisia broke up a rally held by LGBT activists. The event had been banned “for their own security,” according the interior ministry.
“We had information that they were going to be targeted” by anti-LGBT extremists, Ministry spokesperson Khalifa Chibani told AFP, adding that the decision to ban the event was “for their safety and to preserve public order.”
Despite the official prohibition, nearly a dozen protestors gathered anyway and were soon set upon by police. One participant reportedly tried to unfurl a rainbow flag before being rounded up and put inside a police van.
In December, a radio station dedicated to LGBT issues launched in the country: Receiving support from the Dutch embassy in Tunisia, Radio Shams received multiple threats in its first month of broadcasting.
Article 230 of the Tunisian penal code criminalizes homosexuality, punishable by up to three years in prison. Last December, two gay men were arrested on suspicion of same-sex activity, forced to undergo anal examinations, and sentenced to eight months in prison. Others have been convicted simply for acting feminine under Article 226, which forbids “assaulting public decency with an obscene attitude.”
Samir Dilou, Tunisia’s human rights minister, insists the concept of sexual orientation “is specific to the West” and that homosexuals need to be “treated medically.” Dilou also attacked Gayday magazine, Tunisia’s first (and only) gay publications claiming “freedom of speech has its limits.”