Webinar summary: "What is the state of LGBTQ+ rights in the Mediterranean?"

July 12, 2023: 5 p.m.-6 p.m.

Summary of the exchanges

Host: Sarah CHELAL, Network Facilitator, REF
Moderator: Munya THAHER (Palestine)
Speakers: Ibrahim GHAZI (Lebanon); Natalia TORRES (Spain); Brahim BASSEM (Tunisia); Hamza BENSOUDA (Morocco)

Ibrahim GHAZI (Lebanon) - law student and LGBTQ+ rights activist in Lebanon. 
In Lebanon, the 1943 article of the law does not directly penalize people from the LGBTQ+ community but is used by prosecutors to penalize people belonging to it. However, since 2009, there has been a real change within the legal sphere with the arrival of young judges who tend not to prosecute LGBTQ+ people. At Proud Lebanon, Ibrahim is working on a bill to abolish the section in question. On the other hand, before the revolt of October 17, 2019, from an economic point of view, people from the LGBTQ+ community were very little included in the world of work. Although there are still difficulties, this revolt has given a new lease of life to the community, which is increasingly visible, included and present in the Lebanese world of work. 
Natalia TORRES (Spain) - economist and co-founder of the AEGEE Malaga association.
Spain ranks 4th in terms of LGBTQ+ rights in Europe and clearly differs from its Mediterranean neighbours such as Italy (35th place). The country has many laws in favor of equality and non-discrimination of LGBTQ+ people; The latest being the so-called "trans" law, which allows people to change their gender administratively from the age of 16. Despite this positive context, there are still problems, particularly among LGBTQ+ teenagers who face hate crimes. 49% of them also say they experience harassment because they belong to the LGBTQ+ community. The possibility of the far-right (the VOX party) entering the government in the next elections also remains a significant concern within the Spanish LGBTQ+ community. 
Brahim BASSEM (Tunisia) - Queer activist, filmmaker and founder of a platform launched in 2020 that addresses LGBTQ+, gender and sexuality topics in Tunisian dialect.
Working on these issues is complicated in the Tunisian context, which is sensitive and dangerous. Homosexuality, transidentity and intersexuality remain illegal under Tunisian law since the introduction of laws dating back to the French colonial period (articles 230 and 266 bis) and punishable by up to 3 years in prison. On the other hand, the spread of STDs – especially HIV – is a major problem in Tunisia. Stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people discourages them from going to health centres for information, treatment or testing. Despite this unfavorable context, the Queer community in Tunisia remains strong and active in many fields (art, academic research, etc.).  
Hamza BENSOUDA (Morocco) - gender specialist, activist of the LGBTQ+ community since 2000 as well as host of the podcast "A queer is yet to come". 
When talking about LGBTQ+ rights activism in Morocco since the 2000s, there are three main points to keep in mind: the authoritarian context, the importance of digital technology and the interweaving of state and social violence. Section 6 of Article A189 criminalizes "lewd and unnatural acts with a person of the same sex," leaving LGBTQ+ identity delegated to social violence. The issue of cyberactivism is also very important in Morocco since the country is ranked 12th in the world in terms of use of the Meta group's social networks among 16-64 year olds. Moreover, Hamza speaks of a "deliberate policy of violence" on several levels: the state delegates physical violence to society; there is what he calls a "social disjunction"; and the "system of three 7s" (the number 7 representing the letter Ha in Arabic): Hashak (sal), Hshouma (shame) and Haram (which is a matter of religion), which he says determines the situation of people from the LGBTQ+ community in Morocco. 

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