Tunisian President Béji Caïd Essebsi is considering a recommendation which calls for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in his country.
The nation’s Individual Freedoms and Equaslity Committee (COLIBE) was formed last year, and is made up of lawmakers, human rights advocates and academics who will put forward a number of recommendations about law reform.
Their objective is “to the state of individual freedoms and equality in Tunisia through the preparation of a reform project in accordance with the requirements of the Tunisian Constitution of 2014 and international human rights standards”.
In their report to Essebsi, they highlighted that Tunisia’s Article 230 of the Penal Code – which criminalises gay sex – should be completely scrapped.
“The state and society have nothing to do with the sexual life amongst adults … sexual orientations and choices of individuals are essential to private life,” they stated.
“Therefore the commission recommends canceling [article 230], since it violates the self-evident private life, and because it has brought criticism to the Republic of Tunisia from international human rights bodies.”
Essebsi will now have to consider their recommendation before he starts any legal procedure to decriminalise homosexuality.
In the event that he rejects the call for decriminalisation, COLIBE have offered the alternative reform of reduced the punishment for gay sex.
“(They) may not result in immediate change, but provides fuel for the dynamic LGBT rights movement in Tunisia,” Human Rights Watch’s Neela Ghoshal – a specialist in LGBTQ rights research in Africa – wrote on Twitter.
Homosexuality is currently illegal in the African country, with a maximum sentence of three years.
In past years, suspected homosexuals have had to undergo “anal tests”, but it was announced last year that the country would be dropping this practice.
Earlier this year, Tunisia’s Ministry of Culture banned the release of Call Me By Your Name in the country, because of its themes of same-sex love.