Tunisia: The Term ‘Complementary’ Replaced with ‘Equality’ in Controversial Article


Afifa Ltifi

25 September 2012

The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) seems to have bowed to pressure from members of civil society and women’s rights activists and inserted language ensuring gender equality instead of complementarity in the future Constitution.

After the first draft of the controversial Article 28, which contained language that referred to women as “complementary” to men, the subject of women’s rights has become a hot button issue.

In a statement to Tunisia Live, Hassna Marsit, a NCA member from the Congress for the Republic party, explained that the notion of gender complementarity will be limited to the context of the family, which is already spelled out in other articles.

“Decision makers restricted complementarity to the articles pertaining to the family, but when it comes to the Article 28, we replaced the word ‘complementarity’ with ‘gender equality’,” explained Marsit.

Marsit stated that this change comes as controversy surrounds other constitutional articles, including one criminalizing attacks on sacred beliefs.

“We put a lot of pressure on other members of the Constituent Assembly. Many times, I asked members of civil society to give us a helping hand, because we believe that they are more powerful than us. We do our job but still we do not have enough time to touch all people,” concluded Marsit.

On August 13, the 56th anniversary of the promulgation of the Personal Status Code that ensured women’s status in Tunisia, women took to the street of Mohamed V in downtown Tunis to remind law makers that their rights are not up for negotiation.

After the drafting of the controversial article, many believed that women’s progress in Tunisia was taking a step backwards.

The Tunisian Association of Democratic Women immediately expressed their dissatisfaction with the article and their disappointment in the decision of their representatives in the Constituent Assembly.

Olfa Khalil Arem, one of the co-founders of Engagement Citoyen, told Tunisia Live that she was comfortable with the latest decision as a woman as well as a spokesman of the organization.

“We were anxious at first since the word complementarity is open to many interpretations. Now, I’m no longer worried for the future of my daughters in this country,” stated Arem.

“We tried to raise awareness among youths and women about their rights. Thank God, we reached our aim now and people are fighting for their rights,” concluded Arem.

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