The Ministry of Women’s Affairs issued a press release yesterday calling upon Tunisian families to be wary of exhortations made by the Egyptian cleric Wajdi Ghoneim regarding the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).
The ministry asserted that such practices are not derived from any Muslim origin, and highlighted the fact that all international conventions prohibit these procedures. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations consider FGM as an act that compromises the physical and psychological health of girls.
The press release also added that the legal code protects the rights of children against violence, emphasizing that any suspected threat against the health or safety of a child must be reported to the authorities.
Ayda Ghorbel, an employee of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs charged with receiving notifications regarding children at risk, asserted that no incidents have been reported subsequent to Ghoneim’s visit.
“This is a preventive measure, taken to ensure the protection of children’s rights. There is no official or clear-cut law which criminalizes genital mutilation in Tunisia, but it is considered as a transgression since it is form of violence against children,” she added.
She stated that reported incidents will be investigated and then forwarded to a family-court judge where cases will be convened.
Though yesterday’s press release coincided with the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, Afef Hamza, press attaché at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, claimed that yesterday’s issuance of the ministry’s statement had no link to the International Day.
“The statement was released in response to the comments of the Egyptian cleric concerning this issue. Our position is clear. Genital mutilation infringes upon women’s and children’s rights. It is an imposed, violent act that should be punished by law,” Hamza stated.