A Tunisian LGBTQI rights association fighting for the decriminalisation of homosexuality has claimed that the North African country may have become the first Arab country to recognize a same-sex marriage, sparking debate and controversial reactions.
Tunisian lawyer and LGBT human rights activist, Mounir Baatour became the first gay man to announce a candidacy for President of Tunisia and later sought asylum in France after threats to his life, and he currently serves as President of LGBT rights group, Shams. Baatour shared on Facebook that a marriage signed in France between a French man, and Tunisian man, was recognised by a Tunisian local municipality and therefore became the first legal same-sex marriage in the Arab world.
“A gay marriage in France between a French and a Tunisian has been validated and registered in the birth extract of Tunisian by the Tunisian municipality of her place of birth. ”
“It’s not nothing, for the first time in Tunisia and more generally in the Arab-Muslim world, a patented legal act recognizes the unthinkable: a gay marriage!”
The names and location of the two men have not been made public for privacy and safety concerns, but Baatour believes the historic recognition of the couple is an advancement for LGBTQI rights.
“While homosexuality is still punished with prison in Tunisia, and several gay people are currently in Tunisian prisons, a gay marriage has just been included in the birth certificate of a Tunisian,” says Mounir Baatour on Facebook.
“This legal advance shows a lot of developments in legal matters. It shows that Tunisia will not be able to resist the natural course of history in the world. It will also have consequences in terms of law: in case of divorce and liquidation of the property community regime, in the event of death or legacy…”
Same-sex marriage is illegal across the Arab world, and Tunisia’s President, Kais Saied, supports capital punishment, and the criminalisation of homosexuality with imprisonment up to three years.
Local Affairs minister, Lofti Zitoun, debunked the claims in Parliament and declared it fake news.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told The Jerusalem Post that “this ruling is disappointing but not unexpected. A same-sex marriage conducted in France appeared to be recognized by default by the Tunisian authorities, possibly due to an administrative oversight.”
He added that “the Tunisian government has now confirmed that it does not recognize such marriages. This dashes the hopes of LGBT couples in the Arab world that their love could finally secure recognition and rights in one of their own countries. Despite this setback, the global battle for LGBT+ rights continues and there will eventually come a day when Arab and Muslim countries will grant same-sex marriage and other LGBT+ rights.”