The Republic of Tunisia has just become the first country in the Arab world to legally recognize a same-sex marriage, according to a local LGBTQ+ group.
Homosexuality is illegal in Tunisia. But recently, a man and his husband were able to get their marriage legally recognized.
“While homosexuality is still punished with prison in Tunisia, and several gay people are currently in Tunisian prisons, a gay marriage has just been included in the birth certificate of a Tunisian,” says Mounir Baatour, President of the local LGBTQ+ rights group Shams.
The Tunisian man had relocated to France and married a French man. Then he returned to the small municipality where he was born to start the official process of migrating to France. That’s where officials entered his husband’s name on his birth certificate. Adding spousal names to birth certificates is customary in Tunisia.
The Tunisian government hasn’t yet confirmed the news, and it’s not clear that the move is legal under Tunisian law. Still, it’s a history-making victory, as far as Baatour is concerned.
“It shows that Tunisia will not be able to resist the natural course of history in the world,” Baatour wrote. “It will also have consequences in terms of law.”
Peter Tatchell, a British and Australian LGBTQ+ activist, is also cautiously optimistic.
“This recognition of a gay marriage is a milestone in the Arab world,” Tatchell told The Jerusalem Post. “But it is indirect recognition and not the legalization of marriage between same-sex couples. Even if it is appealed or overturned, this is a breakthrough that will give hope to LGBT+ people in Tunisia and across North Africa and the Middle East.”
The news has sparked major backlash from the Tunisian public, and both men are remaining anonymous for the sake of safety and privacy.
Shams also experienced another victory recently. After the state tried to close the group down, a court recognized the group’s legal status, per the Post. Baatour said this victory followed a years-long legal battle. “To my knowledge, Shams is now the only [LGBTQ+] legal association in the Arab-Muslim world,” he said.