Chakib Darouiche, the press attaché of the Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice, has confirmed that Samir Dilou, the Tunisian Human Rights Minister, stands behind the controversial statements he made concerning homosexuality during an interview conducted with talk-show host Samir Wafi on February 4th.
“Dilou believes that Tunisia’s distinctiveness as an Arab-Muslim society must be respected. We are not inciting anybody against homosexuals,” Darouiche explained.
During the interview Dilou stated, in agreement with Wafi, that sexual orientation is not a human right, but is rather a perversion that requires medical treatment. The comments have sparked frustration within Tunisia’s LGBT community and among human rights activists.
Amnesty International addressed Dilou in a letter, urging the human rights minister to reconsider his remarks and restating the current status of international laws pertaining to human rights. “Amnesty International condemns all forms of discrimination against any Tunisian,” stated Lotfi Azzouz, executive director of Amnesty International.
The letter made specific reference to his comments asserting that homosexuality should be treated medically, reminding Dilou that homosexuality is no longer considered a disease, or a ”perversion,” by the World Health Organization – which officially struck homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems in 1990. Additionally, homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973.
The founder and administrator of Tunisia’s first LGBT online publication GayDay Magazine, Fedi, expressed concern about Dilou’s comments, describing them as disappointing, homophobic, and outdated. “We’re at constant risk of arrest. We’re also at permanent risk of being censored and denied the freedom to express ourselves. The magazine is our only means to communicate with Tunisians, and help eliminate the common stereotypes about us,” added Fedi.
In spite of the human rights minister’s comments, Darouiche confirmed that Dilou acknowledged his responsibility to protect the rights of Tunisia’s LGBT minority like those of any citizen.