Tunisian MP whose case ignited #metoo wave placed under house arrest

Zouhair Makhlouf faces charges of sexual harassment

Tunisia's #EnaZeda or #metoo movement has prompted thousands of women to share stories of sexual harassment and abuse. Erin Clare Brown / The National
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A Tunisian member of Parliament who was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal shortly before taking office was placed under house arrest on Monday morning under the order of the interim Minister of the Interior.

Zouhair Makhlouf, a member of the Qalb Tounes party, faces possible charges of sexual harassment and public indecency for a 2019 incident after a young woman posted photos of him allegedly performing a lewd act outside her high school.

The accusation, which Mr Makhlouf denies, ignited Tunisia's #EnaZeda (#metoo in the local dialect) movement and prompted thousands of women to share their personal testimonies of harassment and abuse on a Facebook page moderated by local feminist activists.

The deluge of stories from women across the country instigated a sea change in the discourse around women's rights and safety in Tunisia, a country with a long track record of embracing women's rights.

Mr Makhlouf avoided initial prosecution thanks to a broad interpretation of the immunity granted to members of Parliament while in office. That immunity was lifted three weeks ago by President Kais Saied in a bid to prosecute MPs with outstanding legal issues.

Since then, several MPs have been arrested for charges related to defamation and communications violations.

Updated: August 16, 2021, 4:43 PM