Tunisia President Gay Candidate

Mounir Baatour hopes to become Tunisia’s first openly gay leader. — Hassene Dridi/AP

An openly gay candidate is running for president in Tunisia, hoping to become the country’s first LGBTQ leader.

Baatour is a lawyer and the leader of the country’s fringe Liberal Party. He also co-founded Shams, an LGBTQ rights group.

Though homosexuality isn’t illegal in Tunisia, practicing it is and can lead to imprisonment. Last year, the Human Rights Watch accused the country of snooping on gay men. In February, an alleged rape victim was sentenced to eight months in jail for participating in homosexual acts.

“I am openly gay,” Baatour told the UK’s Independent last month. “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.”

Seven percent of people in Tunisia view homosexuality as acceptable, according to a BBC News Arabic survey released in June.

That’s compared to 26 percent in Algeria, 21 percent in Morocco, and 17 percent in Sudan. Tunisia’s numbers are higher than Lebanon and the West Bank, which reported 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote Sept. 15, a run-off election will be held Nov. 3.

Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring in 2011 and has been one of the most successful countries at implementing democracy in the revolution’s aftermath. — (CNN)

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