Gay Lawyers Digest 9

Gay Lawyers Digest 9

Gay Men in Tunisia forced to endure Intrusive Examinations by Police

The Tunisian rights group Association Shams, which takes its name from the Sufi mystic Shams Tabrizi, is campaigning against the methods employed by the Tunisian police to identify individuals whom they suspect of being practising gay men.  Last year over 70 gay men were sent to prison under article 230 of the penal code relating to gay sexual activities; such offences carry a prison sentence of up to three years.   

The Tunisian revolution brought with it greater freedoms to a range of groups in Tunisia and encouraged LGBT people to speak out which appears to have resulted in an increase in homophobia.  Both Tunisia’s Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Association Shams called for the current practice of physical examination to determine a suspected gay man’s sexual orientation to be banned, with Amna Guellali, director of Tunisia’s HRW commenting  “the Tunisian authorities have no business meddling in people’s private sexual practices, brutalising and humiliating them under the guise of enforcing discriminatory laws”.

A presidential commission, comprising of the individual freedoms and equality committee, proposed, in June of this year, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and draft legislation was put forward last month by members of parliament.  Whilst the proposals were welcomed by LGBT campaigners support from conservative politicians seems unlikely. 

A number of cases were reviewed and it was found that many were mistreated during the course of the examinations.  One victim of a gang attack was required to file a complaint to the police in connection with his attack before he could receive medical treatment and after having done so he was not treated as a victim but was promptly ordered to undergo an examination to determine whether he had participated in gay sex.  There have already been calls from ministers in the Tunisian government to end the forced examinations but it seems that there is no real appetite for change.


Landmark decision by Scottish Education Secretary

The Scottish Education Secretary, John Swinney, has announced that Scotland will lead the way to be the first country in the world to introduce education on LGBT issues into the school curriculum.  Understandably the move has been hailed as a “monumental victory” but LGBT supporters.  The Scottish government has fully accepted the recommendations of the working group set up to develop ways to improve the lives and experiences of young LGBT people in school.  Blair Wilson the young man violently attacked this summer whilst walking home commented: “that kind of education would have enabled him to realise that he was OK to be exactly who I am”.

The nature of the education is to include LGBT terminology, recognising and understanding homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.  It has been suggested that achievements of high-level gay individuals could be discussed in lessons; Alan Turing could be mentioned in maths lessons, for example.

The objective of this ground-breaking initiative is to promote understanding and help children struggling with their sexuality to recognise that it is OK to be different.  It is hoped that it will also assist in limiting bullying. 

It remains to be seen if this initiative is taken up by the rest of the UK.