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Tunisia's comic book writer Nadia Khiari, author of "Willis from Tunis" (GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)
Tunisia's comic book writer Nadia Khiari, author of "Willis from Tunis" (GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)

Art of resistance

North African cartoonists fight back against male guardianship

By WITW Staff on November 30, 2016

Tunisian cartoonist Nadia Khiari, the creator of Willis from Tunis — a cartoon about a cat living in post-revolutionary Tunisia — has a problem with how her country deals with rape. Post-Arab Spring in 2014, Tunisia passed laws that vastly expanded women’s rights in the country. But just this past October, she noted, a Tunisian TV talk show host was suspended after saying that a young girl subjected to years of sexual abuse by three male relatives should marry one of them. Cultural attitudes, she says, are slow to change.

“The body of a woman belongs to her family and even if she has been subjected to sexual violence, it is the honor of the family that must be preserved above everything,” Khiari explained. “The Tunisian administration doesn’t recognize rape for what it is. It isn’t seen as a serious crime.”

Khiari was one of three female North African cartoonists asked by the BBC to illustrate the role of male guardianship in their respective countries as part of the broadcaster’s 100 Women series. For her contribution to the project, Khiari included the chilling image of a family being told that their daughter had been raped — only for them to celebrate the preservation of the family’s honor upon learning that the daughter’s rapist wanted to marry her.

For award-winning Egyptian cartoonist Doaa el-Adl, “the issue that symbolizes male guardianship most in our country is the question of young brides.” Shortly after girls turn 18, el-Adl explained, poor rural families have been selling off their daughters to wealthy men who come from the Gulf States in search of “much younger, temporary brides.” In an apparent attempt at stopping the practice, the Egyptian government required foreigners marrying women and girls 25 years younger than themselves to pay the family approximately $6,000. This law, El-Adl said, only increased the incentive for poor Egyptian families to “[sell] these girls off.”

Riham Elhour, the first-ever female cartoonist to be published in the Moroccan press, said that male guardianship laws that give husbands the legal authority to prevent their wives from travelling if they bring their children are being used “to control women’s lives.” Through her art, she hopes she can encourage women to fight for greater emancipation.

“I want my drawings to stir women to fight for their rights,” said Elhour. “I don’t want them to moan about being the victim. I am a fighter. All women are fighters.”

Read the full story at BBC News.


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