The national Danish organisation LGBT Danmark is currently working closely with the Tunisian LGBT organisation to tackle homophobia and make life better for Tunisia’s LGBT+ population.
Focus on MENA
The Danish-Arab Partnership Programme (DAPP) is Denmark’s collaboration project with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) focusing on reform and democratisation in the region. A part of this programme involves the Danish organisation LGBT Danmark working directly with organisations in the Middle East and North Africa to improve the situation for the LGBT+ communities.
Right now LGBT Danmark is working intensively in Tunisia with the local organisation Mawjoudin (meaning “We Exist”).
“Our main focus is to contribute to the reduction of all forms of stigmatisation and discrimination for LGBTIQ people in Tunisia and to work together to strengthen the LGBTIQ community in Tunisia through a joint, collaborative effort between Mawjoudin and LGBT Danmark” says Abir Boukornine who is from Tunisia but now residing in Copenhagen and working with LGBT Danmark.
Anal tests and jail
Generally speaking the Middle East and North Africa is a region in which the LGBT communities are facing severe problems due to both social stigmatisation as well as laws criminalising homosexuality.
“Homophobia in Tunisia is practiced on a state and community level. Article 230 of the Tunisian penal code criminalises sodomy and lesbianism, which makes gay and bisexual men particularly vulnerable to state institutions, under the practice of the “anal test” and are likely to face up to three years of imprisonment. Non-heterosexual women on the other hand face more pressure and violations on the level of the community; they are more likely to come under attack on the level of the community and the family, being pressured to conform to marriage and heterosexual life”, Abir Boukornine explains and continues:
“For both young men and women, the punishment of not complying with family and community norms is that they are chased out of their homes and kicked out of school. There is a high fear of stigmatisation, which results in many LGBTIQ people hiding their true sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The overall attitude towards non-conforming people is therefore leading to high degrees of self-denial and self-hatred by teenage, young and adult LGBTIQ persons”.
Working hand in hand
One of the key elements to success will be for LGBT Danmark to listen very carefully to the local partner organisation in Tunisia.
“It is really important to mention that the main pillar of the programme is to work hand in hand with partners in the region, as they are the ones with the main know-ledge on the needs and what needs to be done in their own countries. In our case we have been depending on the advice and feedback coming from our Tunisian partner, and our role is to support them on what they need us to do”, says Abir Boukornine from LGBT Danmark.
LGBT Danmark has previously been working with similar projects in both Tanzania and Uganda, and next stop after Tunisia will be Morocco.