Tunisian Draft Constitution Says Women “Complementary To Men”; Language Sparks Protest


U.S. media is reporting that language used to describe women in a proposed Tunisian constitution has sparked protests there. According to a Washington Post report

“CAIRO — A row over a proposed constitutional description of women as complementary to men in family life has sharpened divisions in Tunisia between Islamists and a secular opposition that fought for years to make the North African nation a relative bastion of gender equality.The description falls short of recognizing women and men as equal, say activists, who fear a push by the country’s new Islamist leaders to introduce constitutional changes that could reverse decades of progress in what has traditionally been seen as one of the Arab world’s most liberal countries.  ‘Women of Tunisia are a woman and a half,’ thousands of women chanted this week during a protest march along the capital’s main boulevard, Habib Bourghuiba. The road was named for the Tunisian republic’s first president, known as a champion of women’s rights. ‘We rebelled together. We will build Tunisia together.’ The draft constitution, formulated by a constituent assembly dominated by Islamists, is due to be ratified in a referendum next year. Talks on the exact wording are continuing between the Ennahda party-led government — elected after the overthrow of dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali last year — and activists. Article 28 assigns women ‘a complementary role inside the family,’ which activists describe as gratuitous, humiliating and a threat to women’s rights. ‘It is demeaning and unfair to all women in Tunisia,’ said Bouchra Belhaj, a lawyer and human rights activist in the capital, Tunis. ‘They have placed women into a certain category, the category of the wife who is just ‘complementary’ to her husband and nothing more.’ Activists fear the wording could herald a gradual erosion of women’s rights. Tunisia, alone among Arab countries, permits abortion. Women of all classes play a prominent role in public life and the economy, including as bus drivers and police officers. Married women frequently make their own career and lifestyle decisions. Women marched on the front lines during the street protests that ousted Ben Ali last year and ushered in a new era of political liberty and uncertainty. Although Tunisians across the political spectrum rose up against Ben Ali, the Islamist Ennahda party dominated October elections for a parliament and a constituent assembly. Ennahda officials reject the assertion that they are trying to roll back women’s rights in the name of Islam. The party recently acceded to secularists’ demands to exclude any reference to Islamic law, or sharia, from the constitution’s preamble, and officials note that two other clauses in the constitution refer to equality between men and women.

A post from earlier this month report that the Ennahda party had proposed a bill banning “blasphemy.” 

post from November 2011 reviewed the evidence linking the Ennahda (aka Nahda) Party to the Global Muslim Brotherhood.  Ennahda is  headed by Rachid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) who can best be described as an independent Islamist power center who is tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood though his membership in the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) and his important position in the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), both organizations led by Global Muslim Brotherhood Youssef Qaradawi. An Egyptian news report has identified Ghannouchi  as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood “abroad.” Ghannouchi is also one of the founding members of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi organization closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and dedicated to the propagation of “Wahabist” Islam throughout the world. Ghannouchi is known for his thinking on the issue of Islam and citizenship rights. Earlier posts reported on the return of Mr. Ghannouchi to Tunisia following his long exile in the UK. Other posts have detailed his extremist background.

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