First-ever radio station for gays in Tunisia sparks controversy

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In a first in the Arab world, an internet radio station for the gay community was launched in Tunisia, sparking a huge controversy. Many think homosexuals deserve a platform to speak on their behalf, while others believe the station opposes the society’s identity and paves way towards promoting vice.

The radio station dubbed Radio Shams was launched by Association Shams, a Tunisian organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, with support from the Dutch embassy on Monday. Those in charge of it said the station’s aim is to address matters related to gays and the difficulties they confront in society.

The association’s head Bou Hadid Hadi said the aim of the project is “to defend persecuted sexual minorities in Tunisia,” and voiced hope that this minority “can live in a tolerant society.”

“This station will be (be) their voice,” he said.

Radio Shams will dedicate most of its time to defend sexual minorities. (Supplied)
Radio Shams will dedicate most of its time to defend sexual minorities. (Supplied)

Hadi also said that Radio Shams will follow up on the Tunisian society’s interests via political and economic programs, but it will dedicate most of its time to defend sexual minorities.

The station will also air programs to promote tolerance and co-existence.

Protecting sexual minorities

Other programs will be directed towards decision makers to pressure the authority to issues laws that protect sexual minorities and guarantee their rights.

One of the programs will address gays’ daily lives and provide advise about sexual life.

Reactions on social media have been mixed. Activist Osama Hamdy said sexual minorities have the right to have a media platform that speaks in their name and that defends them and their right to live in dignity so they do not spend the rest of their lives in hiding.

He added that Tunisians who seek to enhance democracy in their country must accept others, respect their presence within the society and defend their rights as respecting minorities is a priority to empowering democracy.

However, another activist who goes by the name Tounsi Hor rejected the opening of the radio station, and said: “There is a difference between freedoms, moral decay and chaotic values,” adding that homosexuality contradicts with the Islamic identity and Tunisian culture.

He also said that it was important for the authorities to intervene and suspend the station’s broadcast “to put an end to the messages which this minority that does not respect the society’s religion and that encourages vice will promote.”

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