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Tunisia: UN expert praises democratic progress since Revolution, says more needed for LGBT persons

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TUNIS (18 June 2021) – A UN human rights expert today acknowledged the steps taken by Tunisia since the Revolution just over 10 years ago to advance equality and non-discrimination, and urged the government to amend legislation to fully protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people.

At the end of his visit to the country, the UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, said State action is needed to ensure that the national legislation is fully compliant with constitutional principles and international human rights law.

"The democratic path that Tunisia has embarked on and its regional leadership in human rights demonstrate that issues considered sensitive can be diligently addressed within a human rights-based approach," he said at the end of a 10-day visit to Tunis, Sousse and Sfax.

"There however seems to be a tacit social agreement to ask people with non-normative sexual orientations or gender identities to hide their true nature. This arrangement may be convenient for some sectors of society, but it is not in the best interests of society and not acceptable under international human rights law," he said. "Social mores and the impact of religious thought in implementing them should not be obstacles to the recognition of human rights for the whole of society, including LGBT persons.”

Madrigal-Borloz noted the particular challenge of the use of criminal law to unduly persecute non-normative sexual orientations and gender identities, which is at the root of endemic discrimination, and acts of physical and psychological violence that impede access to justice for LGBT people and lead to their exclusion from the health, education, employment and housing sectors.

He said the impact of criminalization on the enjoyment of the rights of LGBT people in Tunisia, and the invisible mechanisms of social exclusion continue to lead to their marginalization. "I am convinced that there is an urgent need to raise awareness of sexual and gender diversity as inherent features of human nature that must be respected to enable LGBT persons to live with dignity and to fully enjoy their human rights,” Madrigal-Borloz said. In particular, he urged the Tunisian State to immediately halt the practice of anal tests, a form of torture, which is condemned by eminent Tunisian scholars and practitioners and global human rights bodies alike.

The expert met with State officials, members of civil society and several LGBT people who shared experiences and life stories with him.

“I congratulate Tunisia for its determination and openness to dialogue and I welcome the determination shown by the State to respect the spirit of the Revolution and to guarantee the dignity and freedom of all, including LGBT persons,” the UN expert said.

“I place a lot of hope in the democratic projects underway, in particular the harmonisation of legislation with the Constitution and international human rights treaties.”  

ENDS

Mr. Víctor Madrigal-Borloz (Costa Rica) assumed the role of UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for a three-year period starting on 1 January 2018. Victor Madrigal-Borloz is a senior visiting researcher at the Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program. Until June 2019, he served as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). A member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture from 2013 to 2016, Mr Madrigal-Borloz was Rapporteur on Reprisals and oversaw a draft policy on the torture and ill-treatment of LGBTI persons. Prior to this, he led technical work on numerous cases, reports and testimonies as Head of Litigation and Head of the Registry at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and has also worked at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (Copenhagen, Denmark) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (San José, Costa Rica).

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights country page: Tunisia

For inquiries and media requests, please contact:

In Tunisia (during the visit): Omar Fassatoui (+21698745081 - ofassatoui@ohchr.org); In Geneva (after the visit): Catherine de Preux De Baets (+41 22 917 93 27 - cdepreuxdebaets@ohchr.org)

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855) / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org).

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