Tunisian town hall on women’s rights

From Greta Ghacibeh, Directrice, Association Tunisie Media

TUNIS – The legal rights and freedoms which Tunisian women enjoy are unparalleled in the Arab world, thanks to the vision of former president Habib Bourguiba and his ability to institute sustained, far-reaching reforms. Among the first measures he took after independence was the introduction of the Personal Status Code to improve the social position and treatment of women.

But two weeks ago, Tunisia’s ruling Islamist Ennahda party proposed the controversial “Article 28” in the new constitution. The article has already been voted on 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.” In protest against the article’s use of the word “complement,” demonstrations were held in the capital Tunis as well as a number of other cities in the country.

Given these latest events, the main question that was asked in the most recent next town hall was: Are women’s rights in Tunisia under threat?

A group of citizens and civil society activists, both men and women, came together with government officials to debate this question, as well as other issues relevant to the on-the-ground reality of Tunisian women’s lives, socially and culturally. Panelists included Farida Obeidi, member of the Constituent Assembly representing the Ennahda party; Senim Ben Abdallah, sociologist; and Iqbal Msabaa, a consultant to President Marzouki and member of the Constituent Assembly representing the Congress for the Republic Party (CPR).

During the town hall, women’s rights activist Aya Khayari challenged Msabaa and the Ennahda party’s stance on the equality of women in the workplace.

Host Wael Toukabri and activist Youssef Chahed also discussed the use of women as a political tool and the contentious definition of women’s role in society.

After the town hall, panelist Farida Obeidi and women’s rights activist Aya Khayari shared their thoughts about the show.

This interactive town hall format provides a unique forum for Tunisian citizens to engage in dialogue with one another on the critical issues facing their country during the democratic transition. Learn more about the Association Tunisie Media (ATM) »

For a photo gallery from the town hall, click here »

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