A popular television show has sparked widespread outrage on Tunisian social media after its host was seen to demean the experience of a girl who claimed to have been the victim of numerous sexual attacks.
Al-Hiwar Ettounsi’s popular television program, Andi Mankolik drew public condemnation after its host, Alaa Chebbi, was seen to trivialize and belittle the multiple alleged rapes of an adolescent girl featured on the program.
Appearing on the program with her brother and father on Friday, the 17 year old girl girl, identified only as ‘Hajer’ told of how she had been raped and assaulted by three members of her extended family, by whom she says she is now pregnant. Her father, who has blamed her for the incident, subsequently kicked her out of the home, saying that she had brought shame on the family.
Hajer explained her reasons for appearing on the program as twofold, firstly to shed light on the events surrounding her assaults, and secondly to make amends with her father. However, at no stage did she indicate that she had expected the vitriol extended to her by Chebbi.
“Principally you are the one to be blamed for. You committed the mistake,” the host remarked during the episode. “You are pregnant out of wedlock, so you should ask forgiveness from your father.”
At one point Chebbi even suggested that the only solution available to her was “marrying the rapist,” a controversial legal option available to both perpetrator and victim under Tunisian law.
Speaking to Tunisia Live, Senior Tunisia and Algeria Researcher for Human Rights Watch Amna Guellali focused on Chebbi’s suggestion, saying that it reflected a broader mentality within Tunisian society, “The only comment is about the law,” said Guellali in an email. “It is a long standing demand from civil society in Tunisia to remove the provision in the penal code allowing the perpetrator of rape against a minor to escape prosecution when he marries the victim.”
“Such archaic law is an insult to the dignity of victims and their right to justice, and exposes them to all sorts of pressure and threats to pardon their rapists,” she said.
In light of the broadcast, several organizations dedicated to women’s rights and civil society have launched a campaign and petition, including calls to boycott the television station, Al-Hiwar Ettounsi’, sue the show’s host, Alaa Chebbi, and initiate a dialogue with the delegates of children’s services throughout Tunisia.
A link to the petition can be found here.
Rahma is preparing a master thesis in Anglo-American studies. She is interested in politics and foreign affairs. Since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution, she volunteered for several Tunisian associations such as ATIDE, Sawty and others. She writes articles about post-revolution Tunisia.