Minister of Interior Lotfi Ben Jeddou said Thursday that Tunisian women have been used to provide sexual favors for rebel fighters in Syria.
He made the remarks while addressing the National Constituent Assembly on security issues facing Tunisia. Ben Jeddou added some of these women have returned from Syria pregnant.
The minister said that trafficking networks have been formed to transport young Tunisians to Syria, and criticized unnamed human rights groups for fighting the travel bans his ministry has imposed to prevent these movements.
According to the ministry, 6,000 Tunisians have been prevented from traveling to Syria.
The term “sexual jihad,” jihad al-nikah in Arabic, has been used in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere to describe this practice. It refers to sexual favors given to men said to be fighting for a religiously sanctioned cause.
It is not clear, however, whether any religious authority has sanctioned this.
This is not the first time the ministry has mentioned the practice. In August, Ministry of Interior officials alleged that women were traveling to Chaambi mountain near the Tunisian border with Algeria for sex with militants. Tunisian security forces have conducted operations against fighters there for several months.
While journalists and security officials have documented Tunisian men traveling to Syria to fight with rebel forces, there has been little concrete evidence regarding the trafficking of Tunisian women.
The minister did not say how many women have gone to Syria for sex.