Protests in the coastal city of Monastir on Monday, August 13.
Considered one of the most progressive countries in the Arab world when it comes to women’s rights, Tunisia feted its National Women’s Day on Monday, August 13. This year’s celebrations, however, were marred by a proposed constitutional article, which would define a woman as “complementary” to a man rather than his equal.
Tunisia’s ruling Islamist Ennahda party proposed the controversial article as lawmakers tackle the daunting task of drafting a new constitution. “Article 27”, as it’s known, has already been voted by the National Constituent Assembly’s (ANC) Rights and Freedoms committee, but must be approved by all members of the ANC before it can be adopted.
The text outlines that, “The state guarantees to protect women’s rights, as they stand, under the principle of man’s complement within the family and man’s partner in developing the country”.
The article’s use of the word “complement” has riled many women’ rights activists, who have spoken out against it. Selma Mabrouk
, who serves as an MP for the Ettakatol party, an Ennahda ally, has highlighted that because the term is so vague, it could be interpreted to the detriment of the group it refers to. She also argues that it inherently contradicts article 22 of the constitution, which declares men and women as equals.
Tunisia emerged as pioneer of women’s rights in the Arab world, after then-president Habib Bourguiba introduced a code of personal status - a series of progressive laws - on August 13, 1956. Among other things, the Bourguiba’s code abolished polygamy, gave women the right to divorce and instituted civil marriage.
In protest against article 27, demonstrations were held in the capital Tunis as well as a number of other cities in the country.
"Neither man, nor woman. All citizens".
"Don't trust a person's sex... Trust competency!!"