News / Africa

Tunisian Women Fear Rights Curbs

Tunisian Women Fear Curbs to Rightsi
|| 0:00:00
X
Lisa Bryant
September 27, 2012 3:35 PM
For decades, women in Tunisia have enjoyed some of the most far-reaching rights in the Arab world. But a clause in Tunisia's draft constitution describing women as complementary - not equal - to men has sparked uproar and concerns over women's rights. For VOA, Lisa Bryant takes a look at the controversy from Tunis.
TEXT SIZE - +
Lisa Bryant
— For decades, women in Tunisia have enjoyed some of the most far-reaching rights in the Arab world. But a clause in Tunisia's draft constitution describing women as complementary - not equal - to men has sparked uproar and concerns over women's rights.

At her factory outside Tunis, owner Salma Rekik talks about the origins of her family-run business. The group, Cofat, specializes in automobile cables and food processing and Rekik says she feels comfortable operating in sectors traditionally dominated by men.

Rekik says there may be some wariness when she starts a new project. But that changes as soon as she asserts herself and proves she's efficient.

Rekik's views are also shaped by her environment. Tunisia is a leader in the Arab world when it comes to women's rights. Past Tunisian presidents championed them - although they stifled other human liberties.

Under threat

But today, many Tunisians feel these rights are under threat. Last month, thousands took to the streets. At issue: an article in Tunisia's draft constitution describing women as complementary - not equal - to men.

Leading rights activist Khadija Cherif blames the ruling Islamist party Ennahda, which inserted the language, for going back on campaign promises to uphold women's rights.
Cherif says the question of women's rights is central to the social and democratic future of Tunisia. She fears the country's achievements have been compromised.

But defining "complementarity" is a matter of dispute. Activists like Cherif believe the constitutional clause can be interpreted so that men may decide everything…and even allow for polygamy. Already, she says, women and even young girls are being pressured to adopt the hijab - which once was seldom seen on Tunisia's streets.

Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi offers a narrower interpretation.

Ghannouchi says there are several places in the draft constitution clearly stating equality between men and women. Only once is there a reference to complementarity, within the family. He says it means men and women complement each other - not that one is better than the other.

Progress

In fact, more conservative Tunisian women, like doctoral student Hajer Nadie, say they have more freedom today than before the revolution, because they can assert their religious beliefs. 

Nadie says under former dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, she was harassed because of her hijab. Today, she feels free.

Business owner Rekik is expressing her views in another way. She's a founding member of a new, secular party called Nidaa Tounis, or "Call of Tunisia."

Rekik says she is wading into politics because she wants to fight for what women here have achieved. She accepts differences and freewheeling debate in Tunisian politics and society. But not rolling back women's rights.

Rekik's party is off to a good start. A recent poll placed Nidaa Tunis second behind Ennahda, with 20 percent of public support.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid