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.
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

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions 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.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid