In what is a first for the Arab world, an openly gay lawyer has announced he will stand in Tunisia’s presidential elections.
Mounir Baatour will bid to become an openly gay President of a predominantly Muslim country in the Arab World where homosexual acts are illegal.
“I am openly gay,” Baatour says. “I came out 20 years ago. I was jailed for three months for sodomy in 2013. There’s no shame for me. There’s no shame for any of us.”
Baatour founded the lobby group ‘Shams‘ which campaigns for the repeal of the French colonial law which outlaws gay sex.
“I think we need to have a debate about homosexuality in Tunisia,” says Baatour, who identifies as Muslim but doesn’t practise.
“I’m not talking about promoting homosexuality, just about decriminalising it. Gay people don’t do anyone any harm. They should be free to do what they want with their bodies. If, as Kais Saied has said, homosexuality is a sickness, then – even if I accept that – I have to ask, why are you putting sick people in jail?
“When you put gay people in jail for three years, what, do they come out straight? No. So they must return to jail for a further three years and then for the rest of their lives.”
While Baatour’s candidacy has been focused on LGBT+ rights, he stressed that his candidacy is about more.
He wants to address the state of the country’s economy, the environment and civil liberties and the rights of the individual.
“I have an economic, social, cultural and educational programme for everything that affects Tunisians in their daily lives,” he added.
The success of Baatour’s campaign is yet to be seen, but regardless of the outcome, he said he hopes his campaign will highlight the lack of progress on civil liberties in Tunisia.
Tunisian citizens will take to the polls on September 15.
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