A recently launched Tunisian LGBT radio station is making global headlines.
Named Radio Shams, the network hopes to deal with opposition to LGBT rights in the country by creating a platform for their stories to be told.
In statements he made earlier this month, Shams Radio's director general Bouhdid Belhadi said:
"We are going to touch, through the subjects we treat, everyone living on Tunisian soil. Our editorial policy is to talk about rights and individual freedoms in general, but the focus will be on the LGBT community."
He also explained that the programs aired aim to raise awareness about major issues faced by LGBT people in the country.
According to Pink News, since the station launched, its owners and managers have received numerous threats from people who oppose its vision.
Tunisia recently ended forced anal examinations of LGBTQ community members
The launch of Radio Shams comes months after Tunisia’s Human Rights Minister, Mehdi Ben Gharbia, announced that members of the country's LGBT community will no longer be subjected to forced anal examinations.
The practice has been defined as torture by activists and numerous international organizations.
At the time it was announced, rights group Amnesty International welcomed the decision but also said it does not go nearly far enough. Sodomy is still punishable by up to three years in jail in Tunisia, and LGBTQ individuals in the country face arrest and significant discrimination.
"Amnesty International welcomed today Tunisia’s acceptance of two recommendations to immediately cease the practice of forced anal examinations and ensure the protection of LGBTQI persons from all forms of stigmatization, discrimination, and violence," the rights group said.
"However the organization deeply regrets Tunisia’s rejection of 14 recommendations relating the decriminalization of same-sex relations by repealing article 230 of the Penal Code," it added.
Awareness about LGBT issues is growing in the Arab world
Even though members of the LGBTQ community continue to face difficulties in countries across the Arab world, dialogue and awareness surrounding the oppression they face have been gaining greater salience over the past few years.
Activists, artists and organizations have been challenging traditional societal taboos surrounding sexual identity.
In June, a week-long Pride event was held in Lebanon, drawing wide local and international media attention.
While this was not the first Pride event to ever be held in the country, to many, it signaled a growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community.
Similarly, the massive popularity throughout the Arab world of the Lebanese indie band Mashrou' Leila, which sings about LGBTQ themes and has an openly gay lead singer, can be interpreted as a sign that Arab youth are more accepting of a nuanced view of gender and sexual identity.
In the UAE, gender reassignment surgery was legalized in 2016, although the legality of changing one's gender on official documents is still unclear.
From Iraq to Jordan and Tunisia, LGBTQ groups and organizations are raising awareness and challenging societal misconceptions.