Tunisia has denied becoming the first Arab government to honour same-sex marriage after the civil union of two gay men in the country was celebrated by a prominent LGBTQ organisation.
Minister of Local Affairs Lotfi Zitoun publicly denied Tunisian authorities had legally recognised same-sex union after gay rights group ‘Shams’ made world news celebrating the marriage of two men.
Tunisia’s foreign ministry said same-sex marriage is ‘against the law’ – citing statutes implemented by the French during the colonial period.
‘French law does not allow recognition of same-sex marriage by Maghreb countries’ said Zitoun.
Shams president Mounir Baatour took to social media, saying: ‘While homosexuality is still punished with prison in Tunisia, and several gay people are currently in Tunisian prisons, a gay marriage has just been included in the birth certificate of a Tunisian.’
Shams announced on Facebook what was thought to be the first gay marriage in the Arab world, to global recognition.
‘For first time in the history of Tunisia and the Arab world, a gay marriage contract between a man of French nationality and another of Tunisian nationality is officially recognised in Tunisia,’ it wrote.
But Tunisian minister Zitoun put down the claim, saying: ‘If it is true, know that it is against the law.
‘French law does not allow recognition of same-sex marriage by Maghreb countries.
‘There was a precedent, an error committed by the municipality of Tunis. And it has been rectified.’
He added the Tunisian Government is ‘in the process of verifying the information’ as there is no ‘centralisation of civil status data,’ according to a Nawaat report.
LGBTQ organisation Shams achieved legal status in March, despite calls for it to be closed down.
It aims to decriminalise homosexuality in Tunisia.
Shams president Baatour said the legal victory is a ‘success of which I am very proud’.
But added: ‘Shams became legal after years of legal battle. We won… against the many post-revolutionary political-judicial regimes!
‘This is not the least of my satisfactions. To my knowledge, Shams is now the only legal association in the Arab-Muslim world. This is not nothing and offers us hardly believable opportunities, sometimes beyond our borders.’