Revolutionary kisses: Gay couples rock Tunisian taboos

Photo courtesy of Najma Kousri Labidi.
Photo courtesy of Najma Kousri Labidi.


Little has changed for gay Tunisians since dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was swept from power. The country's penal code still punishes those found 'guilty' of homosexual acts with up to three years behind bars. But LGBT activist Najma Koussri Labidi is using social media to fight for gay rights, where her photos of same-sex couples kissing have gone viral.

The photos couldn't have come at a more important time. Last week, a 22-year-old Tunisian man was sentenced to one year behind bars after he was accused of being a homosexual. Authorities forced the young man to undergo a rectal examination, a practice that's still legal in Tunisia, claiming that this would reveal his sexual orientation. His ordeal got a great deal of media attention, sparking outrage and infuriating LGBT groups fighting for the abolition of Tunisia's notorious Article 230 that criminalises homosexuality.

Photo courtesy of Najma Kousri Labidi.

"We carried out the revolution, and we refuse to go on being harassed and punished for what we do in the bedroom"

"In Tunisia, sexuality remains a taboo subject. Young people don't embrace their own sexuality. When asked, they always reply that they don't have sexual relations outside marriage. It's forbidden to be gay in Tunisia. But one's sexual orientation is a private matter. The state shouldn't concern itself with such issues. Yet several articles in the Tunisian Constitution poke their nose into people's private lives, in particular Article 230, which criminalises homosexual acts.

Photo courtesy of Najma Kousri Kabidi.


My photo project aims to use the internet to provoke people to reflect on sexual rights. We carried out the revolution, and we refuse to go on being harassed, punished, or pushed around for what we do in the bedroom. By publishing photos of same-sex couples kissing in public spaces, I hope to push forward the debate about gay rights in Tunisia that has been gaining momentum since the start of the revolution. My photos carry with them messages of tolerance and love, even if some people have chosen to view them as little more than pornography.

Some Tunisian civil rights groups, like the Human Rights League, have echoed our calls for justice. Yet the parties with real power, such as Nidaa Tounes and el-Nahda, have ignored the discrimination facing sexual minorities. Despite this, Tunisia's Minister of Justice has admitted that the law must change. That's an unprecedented victory for us.