An openly gay lawyer has made headlines by announcing his candidacy for Tunisia’s presidency in the country’s upcoming September elections. This follows the death of 92-year-old President Beji Caïd Essebsi.
CNN further reports that Mounir Baatour, who is the leader of the country’s fringe Liberal Party, as well as co-founder of LGBTQ rights group Shams – is the first openly gay presidential candidate in the Muslim world.
In an interview with The Independent last month Baatour said that he is “openly gay”, revealing that “I came out 20 years ago. I was jailed for three months for sodomy in 2013. There’s no shame for me. There’s no shame for any of us.”
In a statement released along with his announcement, Baatour said he expected to make the ballot for the Sunday September 15 election and vowed “to go to court to challenge any effort to bar my candidacy.”
While homosexuality technically isn’t illegal in Tunisia, practicing it can be and can still lead to imprisonment. During 2018 the Human Rights Watch accused the country of snooping on gay men, and in February this year an alleged rape victim was sentenced to eight months in jail for “participating in homosexual acts”.
Congratulating Baatour on Twitter, Fred Karger – who, in his 2012 Republican primary run became the first openly gay American to run for president – said he is “very, very courageous” for taking the bold step.
“[It is a first] not just in Tunisia, but the first in Africa and the Muslim world. He seems to be a very qualified candidate,” Karger continued. It’s such an important thing to do for so many people around the world, to see someone to be out and proud and doing what he’s doing.”