A secular-leaning member of Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly demanded that a representative of the ruling Islamist Ennahda movement apologize or resign for remarks he had made in support of female circumcision.
“It is unreasonable that a representative values a crime like this committed against women in several states,” Nadia Shaaban, from the Modernist Democratic Pole, said during an assembly session on Monday, commenting on remarks made by Habib Louz.
Louz, a hawkish figure in Ennahda, had told Al Maghreb newspaper on Sunday that female circumcision is an act of “beautification of women, and does not affect her (sexual) appetite.” Louz added that circumcision is “non-mandatory,” citing religious edicts by Egyptian preacher Wagdy Ghoneim.
In areas of high temperature, people practice female circumcision for sanitary and medical reasons, Louz also claimed.
Shaaban described the remarks, aired live by state television, represent an insult to Tunisian women and a coup against the Tunisian revolution. “Instead of pushing society forward, Louz wants to push us backwards,” she said.
Tunisian women have been among the most liberalized in the Arab Region since 1956, when former leader Habib Bourguiba issued personal status legislation protecting women’s rights.
But since Islamists came to power in October 2011, Tunisia’s secularists have been increasingly wary that these rights will be undermined.
Ennahda had proposed a bill to the assembly recommending the word “integration” rather than “equality” between men and women. The bill was withdrawn after a chorus of criticism.
On Saturday, a women’s march in central Tunisia emphasized the importance of protecting women’s rights in the Tunisian constitution currently being drafted by the assembly.