Home Culture Tunisian LGBT Association to Hold First Festival in MENA Region

Tunisian LGBT Association to Hold First Festival in MENA Region

By Sana Elouazi

Rabat – As the social unrest continues to hit several cities in Tunisia, the collectif  Mawjoudin (we exist), decided to lead the fight in its own way by holding in Tunisia’s capital, the first LGBT film festival that addresses issues of gender identity and non-normative sexual orientation.

The Tunisian association Mawjoudin was created in 2014 to fight against gender and sexual orientation discrimination.

“Mawjoudin LGBT Film Festival,” which is due on January 15 to 18, will not be only a first of its kind in the North African country, but also a step forward to confront Tunisia’s penal code that prohibits homosexuality which is punishable by three years of imprisonment.

Judges have repeatedly forced Tunisian young people, who are prosecuted for homosexuality to submit to an anal test, a practice denounced as “cruel” and “inhuman” by human rights NGOs.

“This festival, provides a better understanding of gender, non-normative sexuality and sexual orientation,” one of the coordinators of the event and spokesperson of the association told HuffPost Tunisia.

The event comes only after few weeks of the launch of the first LGBT radio station, Shams Radio, to “promote tolerance in Tunisia where homosexuality is illegal.”

“There is nothing out there that talks about the LGBTQ community honestly. This gives people a way to defend our community, and we need this for Tunisia and the Middle East,” Bouhdid Belhedi, the 25-year-old executive director of Shams was quoted by Reuters as saying.

“We have to change the mentality of Tunisian society, they refuse anyone who is different from the rest of society,” said Belhedi.

“I hope this will make a difference and create more tolerance. That is why we are here,” the executive director added.

The radio’s team has received more than 4,000 hate messages and threats on social media following its opening, but they “refused to stop their efforts.”

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