Images of a young girl’s engagement party, which appeared on social media have sparked public indignation across Tunisia and led to the dismissal of the area’s Regional Delegate for Child Protection.
Minister for Women, Children and Family, Nazhia Laabidi sacked the Regional Delegate for Child Protection in Gafsa, Youssef Issaoui for allowing the betrothal celebration of the 12 year old girl to go ahead. The decision to dismiss him from his post followed Issaoui’s interview on Shams FM, where the delegate told listeners, “the girl is in good health and doesn’t look like she’s 12 year old. The two families approved the engagement, which doesn’t contradict any traditions. It’s only an engagement, the marriage will take place when the bride is 18 years old.” According to Mosaique FM, the parents of both children apparently approved of the engagement.
Speaking to Tunisia Live, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Woman, Children and Family, Hassen Younes said that this incident is extremely worrying, particularly given the nonchalance of the delegate of Gafsa. “The Ministry conducted primary investigations and contacted the family. We took the necessary measures in order to protect the girl, otherwise she would likely suffer physical and psychological consequences of this, given her young age.”
Sociologist, Tarek Mohamed Belhaj spoke to Tunisia Live about the social politics of sex and marriage, pointing to the foreign influences changing attitudes in Tunisia, saying that “the promotion of concepts such as the temporary marriages and the marriage of minors, (sanctioned under some readings of Sharia) are foreign concepts being spread by foreign sheikhs.”
Zaineb is a journalist in the Tunisia Live newsroom. She speaks Arabic, French and English.