Tunisia: New Constitution Supports Women's Rights and Calls on the State to Eliminate Violence Against Women
Monday, February 17, 2014 11:00 AM

On January 26, 2014, after two years of debate and compromise, members of Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) adopted a new constitution that guarantees equality between men and women, promotes equal representation in national assemblies, and directs the state to “eliminate” violence against women. These provisions, contained in Articles 20 and 45, have been hailed as some of the most progressive in the region, laying strong foundations for gender equality in Tunisia.

Article 20 states: “All citizens, male and female alike, have equal rights and duties, and are equal before the law without any discrimination.” Article 45 commits the state to protect the rights that women have achieved and to further those rights, to guarantee equality of opportunity, to seek equal representation for women and men in “elected council,” and to protect women from violence.

Although these articles represent a victory for women’s rights in Tunisia, particularly when compared to weaker gender equality provisions that were debated and rejected by the NCA, some advocates have criticized the language for failing to comply fully with international human rights standards, including promoting equality for women in all aspects of life and not just before the law. The constitution has also been criticized for containing inconsistencies that could allow the government to undermine civil liberties and women’s rights. International organizations have stressed the critical need for enforcement and protection of the human rights guarantees in Tunisia’s constitution, in a manner consistent with Tunisia’s international human rights obligations.

Compiled from: Synda, Tajine, Small Constitutional Victory for Tunisian Women, Al-Monitor (January 2014); Tunisia: Let Constitution Herald Human Rights Era, Judges Should Base Interpretation on International Standards, Human Rights Watch (February 1, 2014); Tunisia’s Draft Constitution:  An English Translation, Tunisia-live (January 2014)