An openly gay lawyer has announced he will run for president of Tunisia – making him the first homosexual to run for office in Africa
Mounir Baatour’s candidacy marks ‘a first which will without doubt be a benchmark in history’, his Liberal Party said.
Baatour, the party’s chief and a lawyer at the Court of Cassation, presents himself as a defender of LGBTIQ rights.
Mounir Baatour announced his candidacy on Thursday for the September election, moved up from November following the death of 92-year-old President Beji Caïd Essebsi. In a statement on Twitter, Baatour said he is the first openly gay presidential candidate in the Muslim world.
Baatour is a lawyer and the leader of the country’s fringe Liberal Party. He also co-founded Shams, an LGBTQ rights group.
Though homosexuality isn’t illegal in Tunisia, practicing it is and can lead to imprisonment. Last year, the Human Rights Watch accused the country of snooping on gay men. In February, an alleged rape victim was sentenced to eight months in jail for participating in homosexual acts.
“I am openly gay,” Baatour told the UK’s Independent last month. “I came out 20 years ago. I was jailed for three months for sodomy in 2013. There’s no shame for me. There’s no shame for any of us.”
Seven percent of people in Tunisia view homosexuality as acceptable, according to a BBC News Arabic survey released in June.
That’s compared to 26 percent in Algeria, 21 percent in Morocco, and 17 percent in Sudan. Tunisia’s numbers are higher than Lebanon and the West Bank, which reported 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively.