Habib Ellouz, an Ennahdha member of the National Constituent Assembly, recently stated in a newspaper interview that female circumcision is “an aesthetic surgery,” prompting popular concerns that he expressed support for the procedure.
During today’s plenary session, constituent assembly member Nadia Chaabane expressed her disapproval of the statement, which was published in Al-Maghreb newspaper.
“Women of Tunisia were insulted yesterday,” she said. “It is not acceptable that a member of the constituent assembly praised a practice that is a crime. …Instead of developing this society, we are bringing in practices that are not ours.”
She added that Ellouz should either apologize for his statement or resign.
“It is not acceptable for this assembly to have a member, who does not respect the laws of his country, and encourages a crime,” she said.
Ahlem Belhaj, president of the Tunisian Association for Democratic Women, called Ellouz’s comments “shameful and disrespectful.” She said members of her association were waiting to hear the responses of other Ennahdha members to Ellouz’s statement.
She added that for International Women’s Day, Ennahdha supporters had waved banners against the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
In an interview with Mosaique FM, Ellouz said his words were taken out of context.
“I would never talk about equality between men and women in that way,” he said. “When the journalist first talked to me, I said that I am a defender of respecting women and equality.”
Ellouz said that when the journalist mentioned circumcision, he responded that “it is not one of our priorities now. I am against it.”
In a recording of the interview posted online, Ellouz said that in hot regions, such as Yemen, a deformation of female genitalia occurs that requires an aesthetic procedure. Yet it was not clear if he supported circumcision in Tunisia.