Tunisian LGBT activists fight back after alleged police assault

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1/15/22

On October 21, 2021, prominent LGBTQ activist Badr Baabou was brutally assaulted in downtown Tunis by two men, one wearing a police uniform, who left him bruised and bloodied, and who robbed him of his phone, wallet, and laptop. While beating and kicking him, the assailants allegedly said the assault was a punishment for his attempts to file complaints against police officers for previous mistreatment. Baabou is a well-known human rights defender, having co-founded the Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality (known by its Arabic acronym, Damj) and is co-chair of the regional LGBTI+ HIV/AIDS advocacy organization M-Coalition. Gay sex is illegal under Article 230 of the Tunisian Penal Code and carries a maximum sentence of three years. LGBTQ Tunisians may also be targeted by police for alleged violations of Article 226, which forbids “outrages against public decency.” Human Rights Watch researcher Rasha Younes says in a report by the Associated Press that laws that criminalize LGBTQ people encourage police violence against queer Tunisians, which is growing more public and brazen. “Officers feel empowered to enact whatever form of violence they want, knowing that they will get away with it because the law is on their side,” she says.

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