The United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice called on the Government of Tunisia to adopt stronger constitutional provisions on gender equality and non-discrimination, and to implement temporary special measures to accelerate increased participation of women in all spheres of lives.
“We are concerned at the persistence of loopholes and ambiguities in the current draft of the Constitution which, if not removed, might undermine the protection of women’s rights and the principle of gender equality,” said Kamala Chandrakirana, who currently heads the expert panel, at the end of the Working Group’s first official visit* to Tunisia.
The Working Group recognized that the new Constitution is seen as a vehicle to rectify past injustices and inequalities, secure existing gains and further advance justice, democracy and human rights, including the rights of women in Tunisia, but warned that the current draft constitution fails to refer to the international human rights obligations to which Tunisia is bound.
“While equality between men and women is recognized, the prohibition of discrimination, including on the ground of sex, is not articulated in the second draft constitution, and there is a lack of provision on the right to remedy,” Ms. Chandrakirana noted.
“We are also concerned that this draft fails to specify the spheres of life -public and private- in which the right to equality is guaranteed,” the human rights expert stressed. “Also, in relation to women’s rights in particular, it does not specify the different rights, namely civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights.”
While recognizing the efforts to reach parity between men and women during the 2011 elections, the Working Group also called for the Constitution to provide for the use of temporary special measures to accelerate increased participation of women in all spheres of lives. “Such inclusion would also have the benefit to clarify the new provision on the equality of opportunities between men and women,” she said.
The UN expert group also drew attention to the fact that the new Constitution does not foresee the creation of a mechanism to monitor compliance with women’s equality and the elimination of discrimination against women in Tunisia. In that regard, it recommended the adoption of explicit requirements of gender balance and gender responsiveness in every constitutional authority, as well as establishing a specialized constitutional authority on gender equality.
Finally, the Working group urged the Tunisian authorities at central, regional and local level, as well as the civil society organizations to reach out to rural women to improve their capacities as equal citizens entitled to fully participate in the public and political life of their country. “Rural women need to be an integral part of the historic reforms the country is undergoing,” the expert said.
Ms. Chandrakirana and Eleonora Zielinska, who represented the Working Group during its five-day fact-finding mission, met in Tunis and Jendouba with Government officials and local authorities, members of the National Constituent Assembly, the national human rights institution, national and local civil society organizations, religious institutions, constitutional experts, academics and representatives of UN agencies.
The Working Group will present its final conclusions and recommendations stemming from its visit in its report to the Human Rights Council in June 2013.
Source: United Nations – Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – Press Release – 14 January 2013