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LGBTQ association achieves major legal milestone in Tunisia

A Tunisian court granted legal protection to Shams, a Tunisian association defending LGBTQ rights, setting a major precedence in the region.

TUNIS — In a first for Tunisia and the Arab world, Shams, an association founded in early 2015 to defend LGBTQ rights, was granted legal protection in a ruling handed down Feb. 21 by Tunisia's Court of Cassation following the state's attempts to shut down the organization.

In December 2015, Kamel Hedhili, head of state litigation, had filed a complaint against the organization, resulting in the Court of First Instance suspending the association's activities for 30 days beginning Jan. 4, 2016. Hedhili’s charged that the association had violated the Decree of Associations and had failed to complete the legal registration procedures, ostensibly because its registration was rejected for publication in the Official Gazette, a decision made by the government and over which Shams had no control. In addition, he asserted that the organization violates the Arab-Islamic norms of Tunisian society because it advocates and defends sodomy, which is a criminal act under Chapter 230 of the Penal Code.

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