Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Tunisia: minister, we are at the forefront of women's rights

Tunisia will continue to lead Arab countries in terms of women's rights and family law, according to Neila Chaabane, State secretary for women's issues and family. ''It will always be imitated and never matched'', she said in an interview with ANSAmed, when asked whether Tunisia can boast such leadership following progress made in other countries like Morocco and Egypt.

Chaabane spoke about a ''visionary approach'' in the 1956 Code of personal status which provided for ''the abolition of polygamy; the possibility of civil marriage and a ban on disownment; the recognition of the right to divorce''. She recalled that divorce was allowed also for personal convenience, for both spouses, with the judge as the only authority allowed to rule on the matter.

''Such innovations are unparalleled in all other Arab countries, including Morocco and Egypt which kept polygamy and disownment'', she told ANSAmed.

''Tunisian women's rights have never stopped evolving'', continued Neila Chaabane. She cited as examples that a Tunisian woman can pass on her citizenship to children born to a foreign father; that the concept of duty of obedience has been scrapped.

Also, in 2007 the minimum age required to get married was raised to 18, while if minors get married, the mother's consent is also required. Women were also given economic guarantees in the event of a divorce.

''Moreover, Tunisia has ratified almost all international conventions on women's rights, including the Convention to elimination all forms of discriminations against women (Cedaw)'', she said.

Such conventions, noted the minister, ''have judicial value over national laws and are constantly under the scrutiny of the world's public opinion''.

The new Constitution approved on January 27, 2014, despite the absolute majority of Ennahda within the Constituent assembly, ''has consolidated'' and ''extended'' women's rights, she said. For example, the minister stressed, art. 34 provides that the State must guarantee the representation of women within elected assemblies; art. 40 states that citizens of both genders have the right to a job with decent conditions and salary; art.

46 provides for the protection of women's established rights, the principle of equality and fighting violence against women.

Judicial changes have also produced cultural changes in an evolution from past traditional customs, said Neila Chaabane.

Theory and practice don't always go together, she added, especially in terms of equal opportunities in the labor market and in accessing public life and politics. The minister said the Secretariat of State for women and family is working to overcome this - fighting social and cultural stereotypes preventing women from taking part in public life, helping women become financially independent in rural societies and overcoming illiteracy.

Active since the revolution against Ben Ali, women have also participated ''in the first free elections'' of the country in 2011, although only 65 out of the Constituent Assembly's 217 deputies are women. The assembly will soon be replaced by a new Parliament following elections scheduled in October 26.

This will be another test for Tunisian women, as are those outlined by a recent European Union report elaborated at the Secretariat's request.

Among them, a national strategy to fight violence against women, started already in 2008 and then in 2012 ahead of a framework law; a research center on gender equality; a program to support rural women; a gender approach in public policies.

Neila Chaabane concluded saying that Europe can play a role in this evolution with traditional cooperation programs but should also vie to ''mobilize investments necessary to re-launch the Tunisian economy, known for its good performance in the past'': essential investments ''to cut unemployment'' which mostly concerns women. (ANSAmed).


No comments:

Post a Comment