Footage of a politician appearing to masturbate in a car outside a secondary school in Tunisia has provoked the country’s own #MeToo movement.
A 19-year-old school student shared a video in October of Zouheir Makhlouf, a member of the Qalb Tounes Party, apparently masturbating. But the politician refuted the allegations and insisted he was just about to urinate in a bottle, linking it to his diabetes.
Images of the politician were captured by a student who alleges he had been harassing her. A public prosecutor launched a civil investigation into the issue but Mr Makhlouf is exempt from proper scrutiny because he has legal immunity due to being a member of the national parliament.
The hashtag #EnaZeda – which means #MeToo in Tunisian Arabic – has gained increasing traction on social media, with women wearing t-shirts and brandishing placards with the slogan emblazoned on.
Some 40,000 people have joined a private Facebook group established by Aswaat Nisaa, a non-governmental organisation which translates as “Women’s Voices”, where they can come forward to share experiences of sexual violence.
Allegations are levied against those in the police, military, university circles, family members of the victims, strangers and the press – with accusations spanning from being groped on public transport to incest.
“Tonight, I have cried all the tears from my body. Tonight, I was harassed and nobody took the trouble to react,” Lina Kaboudi wrote.
“Unlike all the other nights, I dared to respond to the perpetrator. I did not keep walking, pretending I had not heard. I stopped, and I held him to account”.
Tunisia – where the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprising started in late 2010 – is deemed to be at the forefront of gender equality in the Arab world. Legislation was introduced in 2017 which offered protection for women coming forward to report gender-based violence.