Lawmaker ‘Masturbating’ Near School Ignites Tunisia #MeToo Scandal

Lawmaker ‘Masturbating’ Near School Ignites Tunisia #MeToo Scandal


A newly elected Tunisian deputy appeared in court Monday over a video filmed by a woman that purported to show him masturbating in front of a school.

The scandal prompted women to take to social networks using the hashtag #EnaZeda — or #MeToo in Tunisian dialect — to share testimonies of sexual harassment.

The MP, Zouheir Makhlouf, won a seat in Tunisia’s October 6 general election to represent Nabeul, a coastal town 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the capital Tunis.

He belongs to the Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia) party headed by business tycoon Nabil Karoui, who lost Sunday’s presidential runoff.

The prosecutor general in Nabeul has opened an investigation into “sexual harassment and moral injury”, court spokesman Karim Boulila told Express FM radio.

“He is at the Nabeul tribunal, where he is testifying before a judge,” Boulila said.

He added that the politician did not know the woman who shot the video.

The footage, which spread like wildfire on social media, purported to show the former journalist sitting with his trousers down to the knees in the front seat of a car parked near a school.

The man wears a T-shirt with the logo of the Qalb Tounes party, and stares at the person filming the video as he appears to be masturbating.

On Twitter, the MP said he is diabetic and had been urinating into a bottle.

The scandal has sparked a barrage of testimonies of sexual harassment posted online with the hashtag #EnaZeda, echoing the #MeToo movement that began in response to allegations that toppled movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

“The Zouheir Makhlouf scandal has shed light on the magnitude of harassment in Tunisia,” one woman tweeted.

Labour Minister Saida Ounissi, a member of the Islamist-inspired party Ennahdha, also chimed in.

“There was a white (Renault) Kangoo car … in front of school. He called me over. I was 12 years old. The fear of white cars stayed with me for years,” she wrote on Twitter.

Qalb Tounes on Monday announced it has opened an internal probe, while calling on Tunisians to “avoid any defamation campaign … without proof”.


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