Tunisia’s law criminalizing consensual same-sex conduct among adults is discriminatory and invites abuse by the police of gay men and men perceived to be homosexual.
Tunisia prosecuted at least seven men for consensual same-sex conduct in two prominent cases over the last six months. All of the men were convicted under article 230 of the penal code, which criminalizes “sodomy” with up to three years in prison. Human Rights Watch interviewed five men who had been sentenced. All of them said that police had subjected them to grave human rights abuses, including beatings, forced anal examinations, and routine humiliating treatment.
“The Tunisian government has no business intruding on people’s private sexual behavior and brutalizing and humiliating them under the pretext of enforcing a discriminatory law,” said Amna Guellali, Tunisia director. “Tunisia should remove such archaic laws from its books, and the police who mistreated these men should be held accountable.”
The government should take steps to repeal article 230 of the penal code and issue a directive ordering an immediate end to anal examinations as part of police investigative procedures to determine a person’s sexual behavior, Human Rights Watch said. It should also investigate reports of ill-treatment, including by establishing a confidential complaint mechanism for all cases of abuse by police officers.
Police arrested “Marwen,” a 22-year-old student whose name has been changed for his protection, in Sousse, 120 kilometers from Tunis, in September 2015. The first instance tribunal in Sousse sentenced him to one year in prison for sodomy, in part on the basis of a medical report from a seriously flawed anal examination.