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The New Arab

Tunisia may have accidentally become the first Arab country to 'legalise gay marriage'

Tunisia's revolution in 2010 sparked the Arab Spring [file photo-Getty]

Date of publication: 29 April, 2020

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A marriage that took place in France between two men - including one Tunisian - has reportedly been registered in Tunisia, making it the 'first gay marriage' in the country.



Tunisia has reportedly become the first Arab state to recognise a same-sex marriage, a Tunisian LGBT right organisation based in the country has revealed, even though homosexuality is still illegal.

According to the gay rights association Shams, a marriage between a Frenchman, 31, and a Tunisian man, 26, was legally recognised in Tunisia on Friday – thought to be the first of its kind.

Homosexual acts are punishable with jail in the Muslim-majority country and same-sex marriages are also not permitted. It is thought the couple had gotten the marriage recognised by Tunisian authorities via a loophole – as the union had been formalised in France.

The news was confirmed by Mounir Baatour, founder of Tunisian LGBT advocacy organisation Shams.

A French consulate in Tunisia informed the local authorities, who added the marriage to the Tunisian man's birth certificate, Baatour said.

"It shows that Tunisia will not be able to resist the natural course of history in the world," Baatour said on Facebook. Authorities have not confirmed the marriage, but Sham is celebrating what could be a milestone in LGBT rights in the Middle East.

"[It is a] success of which I am very proud," wrote Shams President Mounir Baatour, adding that it followed a years-long legal battle.

"We won… against the many post-revolutionary political-judicial regimes! This is not the least of my satisfactions.

"To my knowledge, Shams is now the only [LGBT+] legal association in the Arab-Muslim world. This is not nothing and offers us hardly believable opportunities, sometimes beyond our borders."

According to Human Rights Watch, Tunisia's penal code punishes homosexual acts with up to three years in prison, and authorities can also give six-month sentences for "public indecency or public immorality".

Tunisian news website Nawaat contacted the Tunisian government, and did not confirm or deny whether the marriage had been recognised.

"There is no centralisation of civil status data at the ministry of local affairs. We are therefore in the process of verifying the information," said minister Lotfi Zitoun.

But he added: "If it is true, know that it is against the law.

"French law does not allow recognition of same-sex marriage by Maghreb countries. There was a precedent, an error committed by the municipality of Tunis. And it has been rectified."

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