Egyptian state television has stoked a firestorm of criticism domestically and internationally after suspending eight on-air female talent and ordering them to lose weight. The women, including Channel 2 host Khadija Khattab (pictured above) who has asked viewers to judge for themselves whether she deserves her job, have been given one month to gain what the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) an “appropriate appearance” and be allowed back on air.

The move was unsurprisingly criticized from several corners of Egyptian society, including members of the country’s Parliament as well as women’s rights group. The Women’s Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness in particular condemned the ERTU’s actions, calling it unconstitutional and, according to the BBC, a form of violence against women. ERTU, which has at least one female director, has refused to change course even as it insists the women in question won’t have their pay and benefits suspended.

Meanwhile, commentators are fiercely debating whether or not the suspensions are justified, with the argument, with some defenders of the suspended women, like MP and journalist Sayyid Hegazy not exactly helping even if they mean well. “Who is an ideal weight in Egypt?” Hegazy said to the Sada al-Balad news site, adding that a presenter “might be a little overweight, but she is eloquent”. The debate has even spilled over into Egyptian social media where, as with social media debates the world over, has been conducted with considerable dignity and restraint. Just kidding of course; as would be the case everywhere else, the online debate has been a flamewar, and the matter does not look to be quelled any time soon.

Via the BBC.