Understanding the Impact of Social Media during the Tunisian Revolution for the LGBTQIA+ Tunisian Community

Jared L. Bisbikis, University of San Francisco


The Tunisian Revolution of 2011 was significantly influenced by the widespread use of social media platforms which aided in the advancement and eventual overthrow of the regime of President Ben Ali. With the newfound power of social media, the once invisible LGBTQIA+ community within Tunisia began to utilize social media to advance Tunisia's social and political culture regarding LGBTQIA+ advocacy. LGBTQIA+ Tunisian and Middle Eastern history reveals that French colonization was the most significant factor in creating anti-LGBTQIA+ laws and culture within the region. In Tunisia, this resulted in the Penal Code of 1913: Article 230, which criminalizes sodomy between two consenting adults. Despite Tunisia's independence in 1956 and the Tunisian Revolution, which significantly modified the Tunisian Constitution, Article 230 remained untouched, perpetuating and encouraging a greater divide between Tunisians and LGBTQIA+ Tunisians, rooted in not solely colonialism but additionally Islam. However, the newfound use of social media for advocacy allowed LGBTQIA+ Tunisians to unite alongside organizations to begin fighting against Tunisian laws, legislation, and social culture. Recorded in a survey and through interviews, it was revealed that life for LGBTQIA+ Tunisians has continued to be extraordinarily violent and discriminatory, leaving many LGBTQIA+ Tunisians to feel secluded and forced to hide their true identities. The use of social media has brought new hope after the Tunisian Revolution to the community. It has allowed them to take broad steps forward in retaliating against the government to create an equal society. Social media has allowed a new sense of hope to develop in a community that has been historically oppressed and silenced. Continued advocacy through social media alongside governmental institutions has allowed and will continue to allow the LGBTQIA+ community of Tunisia to fight for a Tunisia which recognizes equality.