“This Is Why We Became Activists”

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02/15/2023

In June 2021, Amani’s girlfriend ended their relationship. Amani told Human Rights Watch that for months prior to the breakup, her girlfriend’s parents had been “refusing to let her leave the house” and “pushing her to marry a man.”[3] They ultimately succeeded, and the woman left Amani. Amani said it was “not the first” time in her life that a woman left her due to “the simple, disturbing fact that because I am not a man, I am not a good enough partner for the woman I love.” While speaking to Human Rights Watch, Amani only mentioned Tunisia’s well-documented,[4] violent[5] treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people once.[6] Most of the conversation was about her writing and her love life. Amani knows that as a lesbian, she is at risk of physical violence, sexual harassment, and arbitrary arrest by police in Tunisia. In fact, she has experienced all three of these abuses. However, despite having received significantly less attention from the media and NGOs around the world, coercive marriage practices also harm queer women’s rights, freedoms, and opportunities for joy, in direct violation of international human rights laws that protect the right to free and full consent to marriage.[7] According to Amani, the queer women she knows have “either been coerced into marrying a man or been broken up with by a girlfriend who was coerced into marry a man. It’s everywhere. It’s the backdrop to our lives.”

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