Tunisia’s first openly gay president? Mounir Baatour is going to try

Tunisia’s first openly gay president? Mounir Baatour is going to try
Baatour, a prominent lawyer and co-founder of Tunisia's first official LGBT+ organisation, has launched his bid for president, calling for a more inclusive society for all identities, cultures and beliefs.
2 min read
05 July, 2019
Mounir Baatour's Shams organisation set up an LGBT+ radio station in 2018 [Getty]
Although homosexuality is still outlawed in Tunisia, an openly gay man had launched his bid for the highest office in the country.

Mounir Baatour, a lawyer, activist and leader of Tunisia’s Liberal Party, announced his bid for the presidency on his Facebook page last week, calling for a more inclusive society for all cultures, identities and beliefs.

The presidential elections have been set for November 2019.

In his post, Baatour said his party's motto is "peace" in both foreign and domestic affairs.

Baatour is a prominent figure in Tunisia's liberal circles, having co-founded the Shams organisation that campaigns for LGBT+ rights across north Africa. 

Read more: 'We are here to resist': Tunisia's LGBT community demand change

Shams has played a significant role in Tunisia’s progressive charge towards equality and acceptance of the LGBT+ community, pushing for decriminalisation, advocating for those facing punishment, and even setting up an LGBT radio station to tackle prejudice. 

Baatour told The New Arab in 2018 how "the 2011 revolution unlocked a certain degree of freedom of expression for the gay community, alongside other minorities and subjects who were oppressed under Ben Ali's dictatorship".

"It was clearly a gain from the revolution," he added.

Shams became the first LGBT group in the Arab World to receive official authorisation in 2015, however, it has more recently had to fight off a government campaign to shut it down.

Baatour is the first openly gay person to run for office in the entire Arab world. In most Arab countries, homosexuality is either outlawed directly, or vague "morality" laws are invoked to suppress LGBT+ rights and behaviour.

Read more: Tunisian women move forward but gender equality remains distant hope

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Article 230 of Tunisia's penal code stipulates those convicted of sodomy face up to three years of imprisonment. Besides this, the authorities are known to arrest men under the same law just for "acting feminine".

Baatour himself was arrested on sodomy charges in 2013, and sentenced to six months behind bars.

Only five openly gay people have ever been heads of government, all of them in Europe.

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