BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — The president of a Tunisian group that supports minorities is calling on the country's government to repeal part of its criminal code: Article 230 criminalizes consensual sex between people of the same sex and is used to intimidate political opponents.
Gay Star News (GSN) says that Yamina Thabet, of the Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities, made the demand after the arrest of Liberal Party leader Mounir Baatour at a Sheraton hotel where he was allegedly "caught" having sex with another man. According to the report, pro government websites and Facebook pages spread news of the alleged encounter, describing Baatour as a "receptive sodomite."
GSN quotes Thabet as saying it's "rare that people are arrested for sodomy because it implies a flagrant offense. But for there to be flagrant, the person must be monitored."
The editor and founder of Tunisian online magazine Gayday told GSN that Baatour is "most probably a scapegoat to discredit more liberal opposition to the ruling Ennahda party," which is getting ready to contest elections that are supposed to take place in the fall.
Baatour has denied the charges.
Despite pressure from local and international organizations to repeal Article 230, Tunisia's human rights minister, Samir Dilou, refuses to budge from his view that gays are sick and need treatment and that their freedoms should be limited.
Activists say Tunisia's queer community is treated on the one hand like a "sensational phenomenon" and on the other as isolated and invisible, noting that neither the media nor politicians will address queer issues in public.
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