Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
  • Criminalises sex between women
Penal Code 1913, Article 230 Sodomy

Article 230 criminalises sodomy between men with a penalty of three years imprisonment. The Arabic version of the law has been interpreted to criminalise homosexual acts between men and also between women.1



In February, Human Rights Watch reported that three men had been sentenced to six months in prison for “sodomy” under article 230 of the penal code. The case stems from an alleged attack, whereby the victim A.F. reported that he had been raped, assaulted and robbed by two men he had met on social media. Police arrested and prosecuted A.F. along with his assailants. Police also subjected A.F. to a forced anal examination, in spite of a 2017 call by the Tunisian medical association for its members to refuse to conduct such examinations without consent.


The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Tunisia states that LGBT-focused NGOs reported at least 45 known cases of arrests under the sodomy law as of September and 150 violent assaults committed against LGBT individuals. Human rights organisations and LGBT-focused NGOs stated that police and the courts often ordered men suspected of sodomy to take a rectal exam in order to collect evidence.


In April, Mounir Baatour, leader of the Tunisian opposition party, was arrested and imprisoned under the country’s sodomy laws. According to Mr Baatour’s lawyer, the leader was subjected to an intrusive anal examination. Press reports from Tunisia at the time of Baatour’s arrest allegedly referred to the minister as a “receptive sodomite”. LGBT groups in Tunisia condemned the arrest as politically motivated.

Statements by Public Figures


Mawjoudin, Arabic for “We Exist,” a Tunisian non-governmental organisation which defends the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, organised the first-ever film festival in January, celebrating the LGBT community in Tunisia.


A number of reports suggest that the Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice, Samir Dilou, described homosexuality as a “perversion that requires medical treatment”. A report of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada claims that the minister stated his view that “sexual orientation is not a human right” and has issued negative statements on the LGBT magazine ‘Gayday’. Following criticism of the minister’s statements, one LGBT rights group allegedly had their offices raided and vandalised.

Sexual orientation is not a human right.

Samir Dilou, Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice

In March, Al-Fajr, official newspaper of Tunisia’s ruling party, criticised a leading Egyptian feminist for “promoting homosexuality and prostitution”.

Persecution and Discrimination


In November, Human Rights Watch condemned that the Tunisian authorities were confiscating and searching the phones of men they suspect of being gay and pressuring them to take anal tests and to confess to homosexual activity.

Plain-clothed Tunisian police broke up a demonstration by LGBT activists in the centre of the capital in January after it was banned “for their own security”.


In April, Tunisia’s medical council banned the forced anal exams of homosexual men. The council decreed that doctors must tell people they have a right to refuse the exams. However, Human Right Watch commented that “people could still feel compelled to give their ‘consent’ in some circumstances.”


The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Tunisia suggested that LGBT individuals face societal discrimination, with allegations of harassment and physical assaults at the hands of police and security forces.


A report of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Tribunal provides a number of reports suggesting that LGBT individuals are discriminated against in society, and provides a limited number of examples. In 2012, the report suggests, a gay Italian and Belgium tourist were both murdered in the city of Hammamet. According to sources consulted, LGBT individuals could find themselves at a “constant risk of arrest and blackmail”.

Legislative News


In June, the Presidential Committee on Individual Freedoms and Equality submitted its recommendations to the Tunisian government to improve human rights in the country. The Committee recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The proposal suggested two options: either the complete decriminalisation of homosexuality through there repeal of Article 230, or that those convicted of same-sex sexual activity should face a fine of 500 Tunisian dinar (or around £150).

In its third UPR cycle in January, Tunisia supported the recommendation it received to eliminate the practice of forced anal examinations of LGBT persons. In addition, Tunisia supported the recommendation calling for the protection of LGBT from all forms of stigmatisation, discrimination and violence. Tunisia noted other recommendations which concerned developing public awareness programmes to address stigmatisation of LGBT persons and to decriminalise consensual same-sex relations between adults.


In its second UPR cycle, Tunisia rejected recommendations to decriminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity: “Regarding the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Tunisia stated that it would be possible to conduct an objective and transparent national dialogue on the subject.  However, it was not ready at this stage to adopt a decision”.

1. Penal Code 1913, Article 230 Sodomy

“The sodomy, that is not covered by any of the other previous articles, is punished with imprisonment for three years.” Full text.

The arabic version of the criminal code, translated into English, provides that “[h]omosexual acts between males or females, that are not covered in any of the other previous articles, are punished with imprisonment for three years.”

Keep in Touch

Sign up to our newsletter for updates on key legal challenges to anti-LGBT laws around the world, news on the reform of discriminatory laws in the Commonwealth, comment from our Director on landmark judgments and employment opportunities at the Trust.